© Financial Eye. A logo of MTS mobile phone operator is seen on a building in central Moscow, Russia, March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
(Financial Eye) – Russia’s biggest mobile operator MTS said on Tuesday it has started selling discounted and used smartphones, offering Russian consumers cheaper alternatives as inflation bites and Western brands suspend shipments.
Apple (NASDAQ:) paused all product sales in Russia in early March, one of many Western companies to distance itself from Moscow since it sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a special military operation.
Sales of Chinese smartphone brands in Russia doubled in the first two weeks of March, Kommersant newspaper reported at the time.
Now, MTS is offering smartphones from Chinese brands Huawei, Honor and Xiaomi (OTC:), as well as South Korean producer Samsung (KS:), for up to 50% less than new devices at its Moscow stores and online. MTS said the brands offered and locations where they are sold would be expanded.
“This is a good opportunity for our company to offer consumers an additional way to save on purchases of quality gadgets,” said Pavel Sukhovarov, head of MTS’ retail network development, who said consumers could now buy used gadgets at bargain prices.
Inflation is hovering above 17%, eating into Russians’ purchasing power, although the central bank has said the firming rouble and a decline in recently elevated consumer demand are helping to put the brakes on.
Discounted devices that MTS is selling include models that were returned within two weeks or have a packaging defect, and will come with a 90-day warranty.
The telecoms company last week reported a 76.2% year-on-year drop in first-quarter net profit to 3.9 billion roubles ($67.83 million) which it blamed in part on higher interest rates.