MAF to open seven Carrefour stores in Uzbekistan

The expansion to the country's capital city over next two years marks first time an international grocery retailer enters the market

Majid Al Futtaim has the franchise rights for Carrefour in 31 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and has around 100 outlets in the UAE. Courtesy Carrefour
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Real estate and retail conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim will open seven Carrefour stores in Uzbekistan over the next two years as part of its expansion into Central Asia, the company said.

“A supportive government, growing economy and high demand for a customer-centric offering like ours makes Uzbekistan a compelling fit for our expansion into Central Asia,” said Hani Weiss, chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim Retail, in a statement Monday.

MAF Retail holds the exclusive franchise rights to operate Carrefour in 31 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. It currently operates more than 285 Carrefour stores in 15 countries, including the GCC, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon in the Middle East; Kenya and Uganda in Africa; and Armenia, Georgia and Pakistan in Asia.

Although MAF suffered a loss in the first half of this year due to a decline in the value of its land and property portfolio, its retail arm increased revenue by 1 per cent to Dh14.6 billion.

In an interview with The National last August, Mr Weiss said the company plans to double the number of Carrefour outlets by 2023. Key growth markets outside the UAE include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and East Africa.

The expansion into Uzbekistan follows the signing of an agreement between MAF and Akfa Group, the country’s largest private conglomerate with a portfolio that includes companies operating in construction, hospitality, telecoms, financial services, healthcare and food production. Three supermarkets and one hypermarket will open next year and an additional three outlets will come online in 2021, all in the capital city of Tashkent.

“As the first international grocery retailer to enter the market, we look forward to working with Akfa Group and combining their knowledge of the local landscape with our expertise in the modern retail sector,” Mr Weiss said.

Uzbekistan’s food market is expected to reach $5bn in Tashkent alone by 2023, making it a “significant untapped opportunity”, MAF said.

The country’s president Shavkat Mirziyoyev has been introducing economic reforms, resulting in the creation of new jobs and an increase in exports. His visit to the UAE in March resulted in about $10bn worth of investment agreements across various sectors.

“As our president’s main objective is to open Uzbekistan to the whole world and attract new investments, we have been in discussions with Majid Al Futtaim since February 2017,” said Abduvakhitov Alisher, chief executive of the retail division of Akfa Group. “We look forward to a successful partnership and believe that a new era will start in the retail market due to Carrefour’s presence in Uzbekistan.”

Carrefour will work with more than 600 local suppliers, manufacturers, producers and farmers across Uzbekistan, and will create almost 2,500 jobs directly and indirectly, the company said.