British supermarket chain Tesco to sell its Polish branch to Salling Group A/S

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Sunday, June 21, 2020

On Thursday, UK-based retailer Tesco and Denmark-based retailer Salling Group announced their agreement over selling a large portion of Tesco's Polish operation to Salling Group. Tesco stated its intention to leave the Polish market altogether, Salling its intention to strengthen its Netto chain in Poland.

A Tesco store in Kraków, Poland (Image: Vindicator, Paulka)
A Netto store in Wojkowice, Poland (Image: Wojkowiczanin)

The deal covers 301 stores, two distribution centers and the head office. With the acquisition Salling said it seeks to improve its coverage in Southern Poland and, over 18 months at a cost of one billion złotys, intends to merge these stores into its currently 386 strong Netto chain. Salling also takes over about 7000 employees from Tesco — Netto Poland currently has about 5000 employees. Tesco continues to run 19 stores, which were not included in this package.

The sale price, to be payed in cash, is 900 million złotys (181 million pounds). In the 2019/20 fiscal year, Tesco said its Polish branch had a 24 million pounds operating loss with a 1368 million pounds turnover; to which the sold units contributed with a 947 million pounds turnover for a 107 million loss. At fiscal year-end, the sold units held a value of 681 million pounds in the books.

UOKiK, the Polish anti-monopoly agency, has to approve the deal. The parties said they expect a decision this year.

Tesco has suffered losses from its Polish operation for several years, as customer preference has shifted away from hypermarkets, Tesco's preferred store size, to smaller discount stores like Biedronka and LIDL. The Sunday trade ban, introduced in 2018, also hurt sales. According to Notes from Poland (NFP), some discount stores resorted to offer postal services, a loophole which allows Sunday opening hours.

In 2015, Tesco centralized its management in the Central European region, comprising Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, but reverted the decision later on. At the time, the company invested in e-commerce and started home deliveries, but Gazeta Prawna reports only 0.5% of Polish grocery turnover comes from this segment, compared to 7% in the United Kingdom.

In the past few years, Tesco Polska has cut expenditures by streamlining its product range, halving its staff, shutting off home deliveries in parts of the country, and closing off stores, reportedly including last year its Poznan distribution center. Deutsche Welle (DW) reported in mid-2019, 62 Tesco outlets had closed within a year. Staff layoffs left meat, fish and delicatessen departments without designated shop assistants, and forced staff canteen closures and administration simplifications.

Tesco sold its roughly 2000 Thai and 74 Malaysian stores to Charoen Pokphand in March; announced leaving its joint venture with China Resources Holdings in February; and in 2015 sold its South Korean chain HomePlus. Speaking to Portfolio.hu, Matt Simister, Tesco’s CEO for Central Europe, explained that the company held a 4% share of the Polish retail market, compared to its 16% share in Hungary, and stated they want to stay in Hungary. In a DW report in March of last year, Dave Lewis, CEO of Tesco, stated they did not have intentions of leaving Thailand or Poland.

Tesco's Polish operation, according to Gazeta Wyborcza in March, is too big for a single monolithic sale. The chain's press release reported 22 sold units in the past year and a half, for around 200 million pounds. NFP named the Kaufland chain and property developer Echo Investment among the buyers.

Both Tesco and Salling entered the Polish market in 1995.


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