IKEA Rethinks Investment

IKEA, the world's biggest home-furnishings retailer, said Saturday that it was reconsidering new investment in Russia and that it would have to lay off 245 employees after months of delays kept it from opening a store in Samara.

The Swedish company has invested more than $3 billion in the country in the past decade and was planning to add four stores this year to the 11 it already runs. Officials have often delayed the openings of major foreign retailers' outlets, insisting on compliance with various regulations. The Samara opening has been held up since late 2007.

The store and accompanying mega-mall are finished, but IKEA is still waiting for a host of documents permitting them to open, IKEA Russia said in an e-mailed statement. "Since we cannot foresee the end of this process, we are forced to notify the 245 employees of the IKEA store in Samara that the company will no longer be able to continue their employments," IKEA said.

The company's board is "questioning future IKEA investments in Russia due to unpredictability of the administrative processes in some regions," Russia general director Per Kaufmann said in the statement. No one answered the phone Sunday at the number provided in the statement.

IKEA said on its web site that the Samara store was scheduled to open this spring. IKEA hasn't reported any problems with a store in Omsk that it plans to open before the summer.