Bharti eyes Big Apple as starter for retail feast

By SiliconIndia   |   Tuesday, 25 December 2007, 12:12 Hrs
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Bangalore: India's telecom player Bharti Enterprises, which plans its retail business to start in the first quarter of the next year, may acquire Big Apple, the Delhi-based supermarket chain with 65 stores, reported The Economic Times.

A senior source said that the Bharti Group and Big Apple are at advanced stages of negotiations and the deal could be sealed as early as next month if the price expectations match. He also said Big Apple has quoted its price and Bharti has given a revised offer. "Talks will resume after Christmas vacations," he said.

Asked if Bharti was in talks with Big Apple for a takeover, a Bharti spokesperson said, "As a matter of policy, we don't comment on market speculation." However, Big Apple CEO Munish Hemrajani said, "There's no plan to sell right now".

"As a matter of fact, we have huge expansion plans. We want to have 100 stores by the end of the fiscal," said an industry source, adding that the expansion is largely for a better valuation as the last 30 stores of the company have come up in a very short span. Besides Bharti Retail, there are other retailers in the fray for Big Apple.

Bharti plans to start retail operations in March by opening its first small retail store in North India. Its cash and carry business in partnership with Wal-Mart will start in the third quarter of next year.

Bharti plans to invest $2 to 2.5 billion in retail by 2015. It is planning pan-India operations and is looking at approximately 10 million square feet of retail experience across all cities in India with a population of over one million.

As western-style supermarkets take off in India and large companies enter the business, a consolidation is likely. Small regional chains, unless backed by a large group, have limited funds to expand and scale up, and will look for joint venture partners and buyers.

The process has already started. Wadhawan Retail, which runs Spinach retail chains in the west, took over Delhi's Sabka Bazaar and Home Store as well as the management contract of Maratha Stores in Mumbai.

Similarly, AV Birla group's retail arm took over Trinethra stores in the south. Reliance Retail took over Adani Retail in Gujarat but steep valuations in other states kept it away from acquiring more.

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