Belgian retailer Delhaize is expected to acquire 50% of Serbian conglomerate Delta Holding, which owns the chain Piccadilly, operating in Bulgaria.
Financial Times reported Thursday that the final agreement will be announced by early March, but Delhaize is expected to take a 50% stake of the Serbian supermarket network, which have annual earnings of more than EUR 1 B on a turnover of EUR 2.7 B.
The deal would make Delhaize the first big western European retailer to break into a regional market.
Delta Holding owns Maxi and Tempo chains, which are market leaders in Serbia and are spreading quickly into countries like Bulgaria, Montenegro, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Belgian retailer is already active in Greece and Romania, having more than 200 and 50 stores respectively, and is planning to expand regionally.
Delta's owner, Miroslav Miskovic, has stated he wants to withdraw from retailing and focus on investing in his agro-businesses, like apple production and wholesaling.
"We will invest the money from the sale into development of agriculture, which is like "Serbian oil". Revenues from the export of agricultural products could significantly improve Serbia's export balance and external trade deficit," he said, as cited by Financial Times.
According to the publication, ownership would be split evenly for the moment, but Miscovic would give full management rights to Delhaize and sell the rest of his shares during the next three years.
At the Delhi's 20th anniversary this month, the owner said that the deal was a result of the decision to find a strategic partner for Maxi.
"What will happen very soon is the result of our decision to find a strategic partner for Delta Maxi. We are about to finalize our deal with a well-known European company, in a month's time," Miscovic said.