Alfa denies plan to merge X5 with foreign group

LONDON (Reuters) – Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa-Group has denied media speculation it is looking to merge the country’s biggest food retailer, X5 Retail, with a major international store group.

“Press speculation about merging X5 with international retailers is unfounded,” Fridman said on Thursday.

“We have stated many times that Alfa-Group is a long-term investor in X5 Retail Group. We see tremendous growth potential for the company and strongly support its focus on development in the still immature and fragmented Russian retail market.”

Alfa-Group owns just under 50 percent of X5 which, with $11 billion in annual sales, controls about 5 percent of Russia’s food market.

Last month, X5 said deputy chief executive Andrei Gusev was succeeding Lev Khasis as chief executive, prompting speculation of a change in strategy.

Three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters in February that X5 was interested in buying assets from Germany’s Metro AG should they become available. Metro said at the time it had no plans to sell.

(Reporting by Mark Potter; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

Alfa denies plan to merge X5 with foreign group