In Brief

Lithuanian Grocery Giant Maxima Set For Polish Expansion

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Lithuania‘s Maxima Grupe (Maxima Group), the leading Baltic food retailer, with a firm footing in Latvia, Estonia, Poland as well as Bulgaria, has signed an investment agreement to acquire Stokrotka, a chain of 410 convenience stores in Poland.

The Maxima Grupe is looking to buy Emperia Holding, which has a controlling stake in Stokrotka at a price of 100 zloty (23.77 euros) per share. The deal is likely to total around 283 million euros.

“This is a big deal in the regional groceries market,” Sigitas Besagirskas, a prominent Lithuanian economist and president of the Vilnius Industry and Business Association told Emerging Europe. “Maxima has been an outstanding company Baltics-wise, with very smart and robust marketing and the continuing resolve to expand into new markets.“

The Lithuanian retailer already owns the Aldik retail chain in Poland.

Petras Jasinskas, chairman of the management board at Maxima Grupe, said in November that the tender offer would be open until the end of February 2018. “We strongly believe that we will successfully close this deal and acquire control of the company,” he said in a press release.

Emperia CEO Dariusz Kalinowski is quoted by Polish media as saying that “Maxima was selected as a strategic investor for Emperia in an open and competitive process. We believe Maxima is an ideal match for us, an investor that will support further growth of the company…Emperia will be a growth platform for Maxima on the Polish market.” Stokrotka opened a record number of stores in 2017 and plans on opening a further 100 new stores in 2018.

Maxima Grupe currently controls retail chains under the brand names Maxima in the Baltics states, Aldik in Poland, T-Market  in Bulgaria and an online food and daily consumer goods store called Barbora. In 2016, consolidated turnover of Maxima Grupe amounted to 2.6 billion euros.

Speaking to Emerging Europe this week, Ernesta Dapkiene, head of Maxima Grupe Communications, said that for the deal to happen, all that was needed was clearance from Poland‘s competition watchdog, UOKiK, or Urząd Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentów. Maciej Chmielowski at UOKiK’s press office told Emerging Europe this week that proceedings were “still ongoing.“

“The Polish competition authority hasn’t made a decision yet,“ he said. He did not elaborate as to when the decision could be expected.

Meanwhile, Lithuania‘s competition authority, Konkurencijos Taryba, has recently given the greenlight to the merger of two of the country’s top-five grocery chains, Rimi Lietuva and Palink.

“There is an obvious trend of consolidation in the grocery retail market in the region. In Lithuania, it is partly due to the arrival of Lidl, the German food chain known for its low prices,“ Mr Besagirskas said.

This year, Nerijus Numavicius, a shareholder of Maxima Grupe, acquired a 9.9 per cent stake in McColl‘s Retail Group for 33.6 million GBP. McColl’s operates a network of nearly 1300 McColl convenience stores in the United Kingdom.