CAPE TOWN, April 12 (Reuters) - Africa's biggest grocery retailer Shoprite is considering a push into South America and Eastern Europe, where it will leverage off its former suitor Steinhoff International which already has operations in the region, its new CEO told Reuters.
The move signals a change in strategy for Shoprite under Chief Executive Pieter Engelbrecht, 47, as sovereign rating downgrades and a weak economy cloud prospects at home. It also leads it down a fiercely competitive path crowded with established retail giants such as Tesco, Carrefour , Lidl and Aldi.
Engelbrecht, who took over from 37-year veteran Whitey Basson in January, said the company wants to enter markets in Eastern Europe that either "have low competition or high economic growth."
"We will look at other developing countries. That is also something that came out with our Steinhoff discussions and they've got good presence there, so we would like to leverage off that knowledge and definitely have a look at the East Bloc countries," he said in an interview at the company's head office in Brackenfell about 20 kilometres from Cape Town.
Steinhoff in February called of a plan to merge its African clothing and furniture assets with Shoprite's stores, a deal bankers had said could create a giant valued at more than 180 billion rand ($13 billion). ($1 = 13.6146 rand) (Editing by Louise Heavens)