June 5, 2018 / 3:18 PM / 18 days ago

Sonae sees Portugal food retail growth among Europe's fastest

LISBON, June 5 (Reuters) - Portugal’s No. 1 retailer Sonae expects the domestic market to grow at one of the fastest rates in Europe until 2022 and plans to open more local supermarkets and boost its online sales to tap the growth.

Sonae, which runs 173 Continente hypermarkets and large supermarkets, Worten consumer electronics stores and Sportzone stores said in a presentation Portugal’s grocery retail sales were forecast to grow 2.9 percent on average a year to 2022, outstripping sales growth of 2.2 percent in Europe as a whole.

Portugal’s economy, which emerged from a deep crisis in 2014, last year grew at its strongest rate since 2000 and the expansion is set to continue in the next few years, if at a slightly lower rate, the government estimates.

Individually, only neighbouring Spain, where Sonae operates various stores and runs shopping centres, is expected to have higher retail sales growth, of 3.1 percent a year.

“The Portuguese grocery retail market is relatively underpenetrated and is expected to be one of the fastest growing markets in Europe,” it said, adding that Sonae saw room for expansion in ‘proximity’ retailing, which can include smaller local supermarkets, convenience stores and online retail.

Sonae already runs almost 400 such smaller supermarkets and stores.

Sonae, which is a holding company, is analysing a potential initial public offering for its retail division Sonae MC, in which it wants to maintain a majority shareholding. (Reporting by Catarina Demony and Andrei Khalip Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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