Portsmouth Voi e-scooters: Council says it is happy to work with firm after it cuts ties to Russia

THE cabinet member for transport at Portsmouth City Council said she is 'quite satisfied' to continue working with its e-scooter provider after being reassured by Voi about its links to two Russian shareholders.

By Josh Wright
Friday, 18th March 2022, 6:36 pm

Councillor Lynne Stagg met company CEO Fredrik Hjelm on Friday afternoon to discuss concerns about ties between Aleksander Eliseev, who owns 1.2 per cent of its shares, and sanctioned Russian billionaire Alexei Mordashov, alleged by Swedish newspaper Di.

'They are doing everything they possibly can,' she said. 'They were on it very quickly, it's just a pity they didn't tell us as quickly.'

She said Mr Hjelm had confirmed that the company had stopped shipping its Chinese-made e-scooters through Russia, sold its shares in a Russian micromobility firm and asked Mr Eliseev and fellow Russian Ilya Yushaev, who owns 2.9 per cent of Voi, to 'verbally disassociate themselves from what Russia has done'.

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Picture: Stuart Martin (220421-7042)

Neither Mr Eliseev or Mr Yushaev have been sanctioned, but Mr Mordashov was added to the UK sanctions list on Tuesday, having already been included on the EU list.

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In an open letter, Mr Hjelm said the two men did not have any influence in company decision-making and said the company 'has not held back' in its condemnation of the invasion.

'They understand the complexity in the situation and want to do what is best for Voi and our mission, in relation to these shareholdings,' he wrote. 'For that reason, we have asked them to temporarily transfer their voting rights to me.'

Cllr Stagg said Voi was now shipping deliveries directly into Europe from China and would no longer sell reconditioned equipment to Russia.

'I have had a meeting with the CEO of Voi because we were concerned that there were some Russian shareholders and we didn't want to be seen to be supporting a regime that has done what it's done,' she said. 'I think we're quite satisfied.'

But councillor Simon Bosher, the Conservative opposition spokesman for transport, said he still had 'concerns' about the two shareholders, despite supporting the trial of e-scooters in the city.

He said the relationship was 'as serious' an issue as its £5.5m gas supply contract with Gazprom.

In a statement, Voi said it conducts background checks on its investors and that it was 're-evaluating all its partners in light of the recent developments in Ukraine'.

Last week the company began changing the colour of its e-scooters' lights to blue and yellow between midday and 1pm each day in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and is donating the money it makes during this hour to relief organisations.

Voi has been operating the scheme, which is run in jointly with Southampton City Council, since March last year. At her decision meeting on Friday, Cllr Stagg approved a six-month extension of the trial until the end of November.