Supermarket buyouts on the cards

The retail commerce sector is about to experience a drastic shake-up due to the financial crisis, with its main feature being a concentration of supermarket chains. So far Greece has shown the lowest percentage of concentration among European countries, with the market share of the first three chains reaching just 38.7 percent. Yet as Constantinos Machairas, chief executive officer of listed supermarket retailer AB Vassilopoulos, said a few weeks ago, ‘Greece’s resistance to concentration is difficult due to the reduced cash flow of chains and suppliers.’ The first moves in this direction were seen last November, when AB Vassilopoulos bought out the Koryfi supermarket chain, thus expanding its presence in northern Greece, and in February when Carrefour-Marinopoulos announced its absorption of Dia Hellas. Although they will not announce anything more concrete, the heads of the country’s major groups have not ruled out the option of more buyouts. They expect most of their moves to bear fruit this fall, when the state of the industry will be much easier to assess once the impact on companies of the decline in consumption and tourism traffic has become clearer. The main acquisition targets will be smaller and medium-sized chains located outside the capital that are crucially not burdened by serious outstanding loans. At the same time, major local players are still eyeing expansion into the Balkans.