by Nana Martirosyan
During his visit to Armenia on May 12 French President Francois Hollande will inspect the site where the French retailer, Carrefour, is planning to open a hypermarket.
The Embassy of France in Armenia reports that the articles saying that Hollande will attend the opening of Carrefour's hypermarket in Armenia are not true as this project is yet far from being finished.
The story of Carrefour in Armenia sounds like some mysterious anecdote: according to former Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, the memorandum for opening a Carrefour hypermarket in Armenia was signed as long ago as 2011. French Ambassador Henri Reynaud confirmed Sargsyan's words but said that there were certain circumstances preventing Carrefour from specifying its plans in the country.
With no hypermarket opened so far, some media began claiming that the key obstacle to Carrefour's plans in Armenia is local oligarch, the owner of Yerevan City Trade Chain Samvel Alexanyan, who convinced the owner of Dalma Garden Mall, Tashir Group, to deny a site to Carrefour despite earlier agreement. Instead the area was given to Alexanyan, who opened one more supermarket there.
The Armenian authorities tried to hush up the story. Deputy Economy Minister Tigran Harutyunyan said there were some contradictions between the companies but he did not specify the causes.
Reliable sources have told ArmInfo that Carrefour's hypermarket in Yerevan will be operated by the UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim Holding, who is the regional holder of the franchise for Carrefour's supermarket network.
The key concern of Armenian oligarchs is that Carrefour is an importer of some goods and can undermine their monopolies by selling goods at low prices.
Still it seems that Carrefour is not going to give up. As far as ArmInfo knows, it has asked for the French authorities' support. So, it is not a coincidence that during his forthcoming visit to Armenia the French President will inspect the company's site in Armenia.
The first Carrefour hypermarket in Armenia will be 6,000 sq m large and it will not be the last one: the retailer has plans to open there more hypermarkets in the country.
Although Carrefour's campaigns to expand into Armenia and Georgia were launched at one and the same time, in Georgia Carrefour has been present for two years already.
Carrefour is the largest trade chain in Europe and the second largest in the world (with over 15,000 outlets). The group sells almost 80,000 items and employs over 400,000 people. Experts say that in Armenia Carrefour may invest some $6mln-8mln. Its entry into the country is expected to foster competition on the local retail markets, which is now in the hands of three oligarch-owned chains.