Central Group in German retail bid

Central Group in German retail bid

Deal expected to be settled within months

Italy (top) and a new Rayong plaza on May 27 are not enough for Central Department Store owners, who now plan to acquire one or more German stores this year.
Italy (top) and a new Rayong plaza on May 27 are not enough for Central Department Store owners, who now plan to acquire one or more German stores this year.

Central Group is quietly negotiating to take over a popular department store in Germany in a bid to enhance its retail brand recognition abroad.

An industry source said the deal was expected to be settled in the coming months.

The giant retail group recently announced it would allocate 10 billion baht to expand its business in Europe this year through mergers and acquisitions.

Germany is not the first country for Central Group to have a presence in Europe.

In mid-2011, the group bought the 150-year-old La Rinascente Department Store in Italy for €260 million (11.3 billion baht at the time).

In 2013, the group added Illum, a 120-year-old Danish department store, to its portfolio. After that, the group also expanded into several Asean members including Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Germany is on Central's investment map because it is the biggest economy in Europe.

Economic growth and tourist destinations are among key factors when Central Group considers investing abroad.

Sudhitham Chirathivat, board director and chief executive adviser, declined to confirm or deny the move by Central in Germany.

However, he did say the German economy was the strongest in Europe.

"We believe in investment opportunities in Europe. Whenever the economy is down in Europe, more tourists will visit tourist destinations over there. Based on our experience in Italy, we believe our business in Europe will grow firmly," Mr Sudhitham said.

Central Group expanded its business in Italy during the economic downturn and is now developing the largest La Rinacente store in the heart of Rome at a cost of 8 billion baht. It is scheduled to open in 2017.

The Italian department store's sales in the first quarter of this year increased by 11% year-on-year.

Copenhagen's Illum Department Store is currently under renovation and due to reopen later this year. The group expects Illum will receive the same highly positive response as La Rinascente in Italy.

New suppliers are already providing products to the store. The company also plans to join hands with some ministries in Thailand to promote Thai products in its Danish store soon.

Apart from the retail business, Central Group is also expanding its hotel business in Europe, focusing on top destinations such as London and Paris. It plans to re-enter the hotel business in the US after leaving the market more than 10 years ago.

At home, the group plans to open a new CentralPlaza shopping complex costing 4 billion baht in Rayong province on May 27. CentralPlaza Rayong will be on a 60-rai plot with retail space of 200,000 square metres.

The shopping project houses Robinson Department Store, OfficeMate, Power Buy and Tops Supermarket.

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