Acer ships US$70.4 million worth of computer hardware to Russia despite suspending business there

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8th June 2023 – (Taipei) Taiwan-based computer manufacturer Acer shipped at least $70.4 million worth of computer hardware to Russia between 8th April, 2022, and 31st March, 2023, according to customs data seen by Reuters. The shipment occurred despite Acer’s announcement that it would suspend business in Russia due to “recent developments”. The records show that equipment produced by Acer was supplied to Russia through the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary registered in Switzerland and a number of delivery services by order of the subsidiary. The shipments included PC monitors and laptops, according to a source familiar with the shipments.

Acer’s actions contrasted with those of key Western rivals such as Dell and HP, which ceased shipments to Russia in February and April 2022, respectively, following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. While not illegal, Acer’s actions risk reputational damage, according to Artem Zhavoronkov, a partner at St. Petersburg-based law firm Nordic Star.

The shipments did not violate Taipei’s sanctions against Russia as they originated outside Taiwan. They also did not involve items restricted at the time of export by Switzerland’s sanctions regime, which mirrors that of the European Union. Swiss sanctions allowed the export of laptop computers and computing components to Russia until 16th December, 2022. There were no deliveries of the newly prohibited items by Acer to Russia from Switzerland after that date.

Taiwan’s Economy Ministry said that as of end-March 2023, Acer had not applied for a special export permit required for technological goods on a government-compiled list. The ministry added that high-performance electronics, including monitors, displays, and laptops, are included on this list, and applications for export “in principle will not be approved”. Acer’s Russian unit said “nothing has changed” since the company’s April 2022 statement.

At least 744 shipments of Acer’s products entered Russia between 8th April, 2022, and 31st March, 2023, compared with 3,735 in the year-earlier period, according to Russian customs data. In monetary terms, shipments fell 71.1%, with laptops and PC monitors making up the bulk of the shipments. Acer accounted for 18.5% of all PCs sold in Russia in the fourth quarter of 2021, while HP and Dell made up a combined 20.8%, according to consulting company IDC Russia.

The shipments highlight how, despite international sanctions aimed at limiting Russians’ access to technology and equipment, foreign-made goods remain available to consumers. G7 leaders at a recent meeting in Japan acted to tighten sanctions on Russia and cut off Moscow’s attempts to evade them. Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs declined to comment on individual cases or specific companies, while Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade did not respond to a request for comment.