Casino's Polish store sale tempts Tesco

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Hypermarket Poland

Speculation is mounting that France's number two supermarket Casino
is planning to sell its Polish operations - with Tesco and
Carrefour vying to snap up the unwanted stores.

According to city sources, as reported in The Business​, Tesco is considering a €800m (£554m) bid for the stores in Central and Eastern Europe's (CEE) biggest retail market.

The world's fifth largest retailer is currently market leader in Poland with a four per cent share of the grocery sector. The acquisition of Casino's chain could cement its position while ensuring close rival Carrefour is held back from expanding.

Meanwhile Carrefour has already announced plans to double its Polish store numbers over the next five years by investing between PLZ250-300m (€65-78m) on an annual basis.

Other international companies are also making moves to grab what is left of Poland's food retail market, which serves 38m consumers. Foreign retailers such as Ahold, Geant and E Leclerc, who already play dominant roles through Europe and internationally, are planning to expand on their current investments in the region.

However the Polish government is keen to restrict the level of foreign retailers penetrating the market, in a bid to encourage local firms.

Tesco currently owns 44 hypermarkets and 36 smaller stores in the country, but came under fire from Poland's finance minister Teresa Lubinska late last year, who said foreign hypermarkets were not welcome.

Nevertheless retailers are still attracted to the country, and with the whole CEE grocery market worth €187.8bn, compared to the UK's €176.7bn, this region represents a key growth opportunity for foreign firms, especially in provincial towns.

Recent research from PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC) asserts that retailers cannot afford to ignore emerging Eastern European markets - but warns that only the most exploratory and adaptable food retailers will succeed.

It identifies a second wave of opportunity for companies entering the transitional CEE economies. Primary cities in Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic are reaching saturation point and retailers should explore opportunities further afield in more rural areas, it suggests.

Boris Planer, CEE analyst at Planet Retail told "Poland has a low population density, with only four per cent of the population living in the capital city. Small towns are a big opportunity."

He explained that tens of thousands of unexploited small towns are crying out for cheap modernized food retailers.

Mintel recently predicted food sales in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic will drive European economic growth over the first decade of the 21st century. The research group expects a 74 per cent rise in food retail sales from €783bn in 2000 to an estimated €1063bn by 2010.

In 2004, total retail sales in Poland reached £66.1bn representing a growth of 7.5 per cent on 2003, according to

Casino, France's second biggest supermarket group with interests in Brazil, Thailand and Vietnam, said earlier this year it must sell €2bn of its international assets by the end of next year to reduce its debts.

Last month Casino announced that Groupe Monnoyeur will pay €89.5m for its 38 per cent stake in Feu Vert, the leading chain of automotive parts and repair shops in France and Spain, as the firm sells off its non-core businesses.

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