For the time being Belgian retail group Delhaize cannot take over the 16% of C Market shares owned by the Serbian state, because an investigation into the privatisation of the chain eight years ago has been started. Delhaize is not part of the investigation, but the authorities want to finish the enquiry into the previous C Market owner.
Possible fraud during privatisation
In 2005, the richest man in Serbia, Miroslav Mišković, struck gold during a wave of privatisations: no less than 24 companies came into his hands in what now appear to be very suspicious circumstances. Amongst those companies was also C Market of the Delta Maxi Group, which Delhaize bought in 2011.
Mišković has been in jail since December, awaiting the further course of the investigation. To not endanger the investigation, the Serbian court has decided to freeze the buyout bid of 16% of shares of C Market for half a year.
Important market for Delhaize
Early February Delhaize said it wanted to buy out the Serbian government for an amount of 9.7 million euro, to get hold of 91% of C Market - the other 9% are owned by employees. The Belgian chain already bought three quarters of shares when it bought the Delta Maxi Group in 2011.
“For Delhaize nothing changes”, says spokesman Steven Vandenbroeke: “We already are the majority shareholder, so practically the delay of the buyout has no consequences. We are also not involved in the investigation and this is only a delay: it will not have any impact on Delhaize.”
Serbia is an important market for Delhaize, which had a huge rise in sales in Southern Europe last year. Until now the chain is still the only Western European country that got a foothold in that region, be it through a takeover.