Macedonian government to intervene as Carrefour franchise shuts with huge debts

Macedonian government to intervene as Carrefour franchise shuts with huge debts
By Valentina Dimitrievska February 8, 2016

The Macedonian government has pledged to step in after a hypermarket operating under the Carrefour franchise in Skopje closed leaving huge debts to its local suppliers, an official from the Economic Chamber, which represents Macedonian businesses, told bne IntelliNews on February 8.

Macedonian companies are reported to be owed as much as $10mn by CMB Balkans Skopje, which held the franchise for the French hypermarket chain in Macedonia. CMB Balkans Skopje is part of Marinopoulos Group, the largest retailer in Greece. The group’s Carrefour stores elsewhere in the region are also reported to be struggling.

The Skopje hypermarket just three years ago in City Mall. It was one of the biggest in Macedonia, covering an area of 4,650 square metres. However, at the end of January, Skopje residents said the hypermarket had suddenly closed.

“Last week we saw the hypermarket had left behind empty shelves,” local residents told bne IntelliNews.

The franchisee’s outstanding debts were revealed by members of the Economic Chamber of Macedonia with financial claims against CMB Balkans Skopje.

“The government confirmed that it has received the letter from the Economic Chamber and will take action in this case,” Elena Milevska Strbevska, a director of the Economic Chamber of Macedonia's operations department, told bne Intellinews.

She said some 50 member of the Economic Chamber, have financial claims, but the number of creditors could be larger.

“If the problem is not only about debts between companies (creditors or suppliers) and Carrefour, an intervention from the state institutions will be needed,” Strbevska added.

She was referring to the possibility of unlawful transactions, which would mean that the local financial police, the tax department and the interior ministry might get involved in the investigation.

Broadcaster Telma reported on February 5 that Carrefour in Skopje had a huge debt to Macedonian suppliers, which according to some sources reached €10mn, though the figure has not been officially confirmed.

Strbevska declined to comment on the size of CMB Balkans Skopje’s debts to the Chamber’s members. This data can be obtained only from the companies, Strbevska said, but she added that other firms with financial claims are expected to file complaints shortly

In 2012, Marinopoulos became an exclusive licensee of the Carrefour brands in Greece, Cyprus, Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria, through franchise contracts.

Marinopoulos has 22 stores in Bulgaria, through its subsidiary company CMB Bulgaria EAD and nine stores in Albania through its subsidiaries Euromax SHPK and CMB Albania SH.P.K, according to its website.

Local news provider Netpres reported on February 7 that Carrefour also faces financial problems in other countries in the region. Two more supermarkets are expected to close, of which one is in Bulgaria.

Asked about the closure in Skopje, the French office of Carrefour told bne Intellinews on February 8 to contact Marinopoulos group about the issue. The press office of Marinopoulos confirmed the closure in an emailed statement.

News portal Faktor said on February 5 that local Komercijalna Banka has already activated mechanisms for the repayment of a loan taken by Carrefour hypermarket in Macedonia, as the liabilities have not been paid for quite long time.