(Repeats story issued late on Tuesday)
* On track to deliver on 2012 goals (Adds details, background)
Paris: Carrefour, the world’s second-largest retailer, is seeking to expand in fast-growing emerging markets India and China, and could exit other countries where it is not a leader, its chief executive said on late Tuesday evening.
Lars Olofsson told shareholders at the group’s annual meeting that Carrefour had been looking for a partner in India and would reveal its identify in a few months. His comments come after Indian media reports have speculated that the deal could be with Future Group, which owns chains such as Pantaloon Retail and Big Bazaar.
Olofsson also said Carrefour would like to accelerate its growth in China, but no large deal was on the radar in the near future. In an global economic climate he characterized as still uncertain, notably in Europe, Carrefour would remain cautious, banking on the good execution of its three-year overhaul plan to return to profitable growth.
Carrefour, No.2 behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc, was on the right track to deliver on its goal to achieve total cost savings of €3.1 billion ($4.13 billion) by 2012, he said.
In India, foreign firms are prohibited from owning multi-brand retail chains, so groups like Carrefour are forced to seek local partners to crack the fast-growing market.
Carrefour has been looking for several years at ways to break into the Indian retail market and hopes to open its first cash-and-carry outlet in the country before summer, Olofsson said.
But while Carrefour was allowed to operate a cash-and-carry outlet on its own, it needed a local partner to get into hyper or supermarkets.
“We have been in talks with several groups for several months,” he said, adding Carrefour would “identify the partner that will accompany us” in a few months.
On Monday, senior officials from Future Group, India’s largest retailer, said Future Group was close to signing a deal with Carrefour to open stores under the French retailer’s name.
Their comments came after Indian business newspaper the Mint said Future Group will open Carrefour-branded franchise stores in India under an agreement with the French group.
Citing people familiar with the development, the paper said Future Group plans to open between 150 and 300 Carrefour-branded hypermarkets in the next five years.
Olofsson also said Carrefour was profitable in all countries where it was present and there was no urgency to exit those where it was not a leader.
But “If there are offers in markets where we are not a leader, it is my duty to look at them,” he said.
Asked if the political crisis in Thailand was having an impact on the company’s operations, Olofsson said: “It is true that sales are showing some weakness in Bangkok. We are more impacted than other retailers but I am confident this will improve.”
Last month, rival Casino said it did not expect the crisis in Thailand to hurt its earnings prospects significantly in the country, one of four key international growth markets for the French retailer.