* Metro aims for 50 India wholesale stores by 2020
* Metro also growing in Russia, China, Turkey
* Uncertainty over India stance on foreign retailers
DUESSELDORF, May 5 German retailer Metro AG
wants to step up expansion in India and is planning to
have 50 wholesale stores in the country by 2020, up from 16 now,
as part of a broader strategy for growth in emerging markets.
Europe's fourth-biggest retailer said in a statement on
Monday that it wanted India to become one of its "focus
expansion countries", alongside Russia, China and Turkey.
"We have seen continuous like-for-like growth recently in
India. Now we decide to inject extra momentum into our expansion
course there," Metro Chief Executive Olaf Koch said.
Metro, a sprawling retail empire which owns Europe's top
consumer electronics chain, department stores and hypermarkets,
is restructuring and looking to grow in emerging markets to make
up for shrinking sales in western Europe. Emerging markets
currently make up nearly one third of sales.
Metro has been active in India with its cash-and-carry
business since 2003 and is one of the few foreign retailers
operating in the country, which has sought to protect small
traders from outside competition. Metro's wholesale business
largely serves those traders as well as hotels, restaurants and
In 2012, India's federal government gave foreign supermarket
chains the green light to enter its $500 billion retail sector.
Full foreign ownership of supermarkets that sell directly to
consumers is restricted. Metro sells goods to small shopkeepers,
which dominate India retail market.
Last month, the Bhartiya Janata Party, widely expected to
lead India's next government, said it would ban foreign
supermarkets if it comes to power.
That could cast doubt on a joint venture announced in March
between Britain's Tesco PLC and Tata Group's Trent Ltd
to operate 12 stores in southern and western India.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc last month announced plans to
open 50 more wholesale outlets in India and start online
operations to sell to small shopkeepers, several months after it
decided against opening its own retail stores there.
In March, Metro was forced to put on ice a plan to float a
stake in its Russian wholesale business because of market
turmoil over the crisis in Ukraine. It had hoped to raise cash
from the listing to invest in emerging markets.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson. Editing by Jane Merriman)