STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - World no.1 furniture retailer IKEA is consolidating the ownership structure of its shopping malls as it aims to grow the operation more efficiently, it said on Wednesday.
The Swedish group owns shopping centres centred around some of its IKEA stores. Since the first one opened in 2001, the concept has expanded steadily as IKEA banks on its own budget furniture store attracting buyers to the shopping centres and vice versa.
Under the new arrangement, which somewhat simplifies a complex corporate structure, IKEA Group will buy the remaining 51 percent of the unit that runs shopping centres in Europe and China from co-owner Inter IKEA Group.
The deal allows IKEA Group to merge its Russian shopping centres business with that for Europe and China into a fully owned subsidiary, while Inter IKEA Group exits the mall business.
"Shopping centres have proven to be appreciated by the visitors and a good support to the IKEA stores, as well as being a long-term investment," it said.
The new subsidiary, IKEA Centres, will own 31 malls in Europe and China, and 14 in Russia, totalling more than three million square metres and some 400 million visitors annually.
IKEA Group executive Erik Oster Pedersen said he sees synergies from the merger at procurement and facility management levels, and that the shopping centre business remains in expansion mode, including in Russia despite recent macroeconomic and political woes.
"We think we can improve the way we co-operate across IKEA," he said. "Where we find opportunities to grow IKEA stores together with a shopping centre activity, we do so."
Inter IKEA Group on Friday opened its biggest mall yet, in Beijing, a key growth market for the group.
It says on its website it will over the next couple of years substantially increase its shopping centre retail space and add more than 10 locations, with a further 12 projects in the pipeline.
IKEA Group also owns 49 percent of a company that operates shopping centres in Scandinavia. The remaining stake is controlled by IKEA's founding Kamprad family.
IKEA Group is the owner of most IKEA stores. Inter IKEA Group is the brand owner and franchiser of all stores.
Reporting by Anna Ringstrom, editing by Terje Solsvik