AMBITIOUS LENTA GETS GREEN LIGHT TO BUY BILLA’S RUSSIAN SUPERMARKETS

PUBLISHING DATE

Lenta, the Russian supermarket operator, has announced that it has been given the green light from regulators to buy the local operations of Billa, the Austrian-based supermarket group.

The approval for the deal, which means that Lenta will take over 161 Billa supermarkets in Russia, has come from the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), Lenta said in a statement.

“Lenta plans to integrate the 161 newly acquired supermarkets, supply chain infrastructure and Billa Russia employees into the Lenta retail network,” the Lenta statement said.

“Once the stores have been converted to the Lenta brand, the Billa brand will be discontinued within Russia.”

Russia is just the latest market that Billa has pulled out of, the company having sold its operations in Ukraine last year, in Croatia five years ago (to Spar, which is expanding elsewhere in Europe) and in Romania in 2015.

Billa has also departed from Hungary, Poland and Italy, although, as well as having more than 1,000 stores in its home market, it remains active in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria.

The deal between Lenta and Billa, whose Russian supermarkets are mostly in and around Moscow, was revealed in May, but FAS approval was announced only in July.

Although headquartered in Austria, Billa is owned by Rewe, the German supermarket operator, which has more than 3,000 stores under its own brand.

In reports from May, Espen Larsen, a board member of Rewe International, said Rewe wanted to focus on “the full-range store segment in the successful EU markets”.

“Our strategic goal is to achieve leading positions in the market and the highest possible synergetic effect,” Larsen said.

“The market situation in Russia, the size of its market, interconnections on it and its development trends do not allow this to be achieved, despite high investments.”

The Billa supermarkets in Russia have a total size of 138,051 square metres and the company also has a distribution centre in Bykovo, south-east of Moscow. There are about 5,400 Billa employees in Russia.

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