German supermarkets Edeka, Rewe agree to take over rival Kaiser's

Kaiser's Tengelmann branch seen in Berlin, Germany, September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - Germany’s largest supermarket group Edeka and rival Rewe on Friday agreed a deal to take over the loss-making Kaiser’s chain, potentially ending years of uncertainty over the future of the group.

The two companies will send a purchase contract to the German Economy Ministry, which needs to approve the deal, in the course of the day, they said. The deal also requires approval by the German cartel office.

Edeka agreed two years ago to buy Kaiser’s, which employs 15,000, from the Tengelmann group, but the takeover was blocked by Germany’s antitrust regulator in 2015.

Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel then overturned the antitrust decision on the condition that no jobs are lost, but rival supermarket groups won a legal challenge to his decision, raising the prospect of a breakup that could have cost thousands of jobs.

“We assume that the whole process will soon come to a good end for employees,” labor union Verdi said on Friday.

Under the deal, Kaiser’s will be sold to Edeka in a first step, before handing most of Kaiser’s stores in Berlin to Rewe, which had opposed the original deal.

Tengelmann boss Karl-Erivan Haub had warned all the chain’s jobs were at risk if he was blocked from selling to Edeka, prompting talks involving trade union and grocery industry leaders over the deal.

Reporting by Matthias Inverardi; Writing by Christoph Steitz; Editing by David Holmes