VILNIUS - VP Market, the Baltics' largest retailer, has reported a 16 percent jump in annual revenues for 2004, with company executives predicting that they will maintain the same level of growth for this year as well.
The firm posted sales of 4.1 billion litas (1.2 billion euros) for the year, up from 3.6 billion in 2003. "The company's business was successful last year. We have hit the targets, although the results might have been better but for a decline in Latvia's lat versus the euro," VP Market CEO Ignas Staskevicius was quoted as saying.
Countrywise, sales in Lithuania rose 9.8 percent annually, and in Latvia 38.6 percent and in Estonia by a factor of 5.5, said the CEO.
Last year also marked the opening of VP Market's first nonfood store in Vilnius, while in Latvia it changed the name of its discount T-Market stores to Saulite. In Estonia, where the company has had a minor presence, VP Market finally made its ambitious push to become a market leader. It opened several new outlets there last year and now has 13 in all.
The VP Market chain now boasts 293 stores in the three countries (195 in Lithuania, 85 in Latvia and 13 in Estonia), and this year it plans to open more than 60 new outlets, executives said. Investments will reach 300 million litas.
Staskevicius said he was confident the company would strengthen its dominant position despite the increasing competition on the retail market. Sweden's ICA Baltic and Finland's Kesko Food Group announced in the beginning of the month that they would go ahead with the merger of their Baltic operations (Citymarket, Rimi and SuperNetto stores), while Germany's Lidl is set to open its first store in Estonia sometime this year.
While in Tallinn in December, Staskevicius told The Baltic Times that the company would open 20 - 25 stores in Estonia and would introduce the Maxima chain in the capital. "We have already acquired some real estate for the new shops. The average consumer purchase basket value is higher in Estonia than in Latvia or Lithuania," he said.
"Our expansion in Estonia does not depend only on us. We'd be glad to buy any Estonian retail chain. We have been growing organically in Latvia but in Estonia we are looking for an acquisition-type of expansion," he said. Much of the speculation of an acquisition has focused on Selver, a small retail chain.
Staskevicious added that the company's ambitions weren't restricted to the Baltics, with retail projects in Bulgaria and Romania and a frozen one in Ukraine.