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German group seeks Eastern Europe Plus supermarkets

Germany’s biggest general grocer, Edeka, voiced interest Sunday in acquiring the German-owned Plus chain of discount supermarkets in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

On Friday Edeka acquired majority control of the Plus chain within Germany from Tengelmann, the group controlled by German businessman Karl-Erivan Haub, and is to rebrand many of the outlets under its own trading name, Netto. That merger, which is still subject to regulatory approval, lifted Edeka into the same league as Germany’s two other main discount grocers, Aldi and Lidl. Food retailing is sharply divided into discounters, which offer bargain prices on a restricted product range, often under in-house labels, and full-service supermarkets like the Edeka stores, which are mainly owner operated and offer a complete range of products.

Edeka will hold 70% of the German Plus discount chain, which has annual sales of €11 billion ($16.1 bilion). The non-German stores, including those in Portugal, rack up annual sales of €3 billion. “Obviously we are interested in them too. Obviously we are talking to the Haub family about it,” Edeka CEO Alfons Frenk said in remarks to appear Monday in the newspaper Die Welt. Edeka has pulled out of past foreign investments after disappointing returns, but Frenk said, “I certainly would not rule out reconstructing our foreign business with a discount approach if we got the right opportunity.” (m&c.com)