UPDATE 1-Triton fund to buy Suomen Lahikauppa

Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:36am EST

(Adds Lahikauppa CEO quotes, market shares)

HELSINKI Dec 20 (Reuters) - Private equity group Triton is to buy Suomen Lahikauppa, Finland's third-biggest grocery chain, for an undisclosed sum from IK Investment Partners and minority shareholders.

Suomen Lahikauppa had 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) sales last year and a 7.8 percent share of Finland's grocery retail market, lagging S-Group and Kesko with 45 percent and 35 percent respectively.

Triton will not try to merge the neighbourhood store group with another retailer, Suomen Lahikauppa chief executive Ralf Holmlund told Reuters.

"Triton will support our current strategy," he said, adding it had promised to fund investment in stores and to hold back from pressing for cost cuts and lay-offs. Suomen Lahikauppa operates 670 stores and has 5,300 employees.

After being loss-making for years, Suomen Lahikauppa will post positive earnings before interest and taxes this year, Holmlund said. "But we still see room for improvement."

Triton, based in Frankfurt, specialises in investments in medium-sized businesses headquartered in Northern Europe. ($1 = 0.7542 euro) (Reporting By Jussi Rosendahl and Arno Schuetze; Editing by Dan Lalor)