Greece’s biggest supermarket chain has won a reprieve.
Out of money and with huge debts, the Marinopoulos group, on Friday, gained temporary protection from its creditors by an Athens court.
It now has until September 21 to restructure – a mammoth task given that it owes 1.3 billion euros to banks and suppliers.
The chain’s problems have worsened since France’s Carrefour pulled out of the joint venture in 2012.
One shopper told Euronews she has been going there for 50 years and her sister-in-law has worked for the firm all her life since leaving school. She said: “I’m very sad about this mess and of what will happen in the future.”
It is an uncertain future from the group’s thousands of workers.
Matheos Mavrakis of the Marinopoulos employees union complained: “The company’s owners have yet to say if they have a rescue plan. We, the employees, don’t know of any such plan; we’ve no idea what they’re thinking and what they intend to do. Our concern, what we are pressing for, is saving our jobs and keeping the company going.”
On Friday the Athens court ruled that Marinopoulos employees will be excluded from the temporary protection, allowing them to launch legal action should the company stop paying their salaries.
Greek government ministers have met with the group’s owners, concerned that its collapse would add to already sky-high unemployment and severely hit local farmers and food producers.
The group’s problems reflect Greece’s economic problems; it has required three international bailouts since 2010 while battling a debt crisis. Marinopoulos had expanded and made several acquisitions before the economic downturn.
Euronews Athens correspondent Stamatis Giannisis concluded: “Over the past seven years, with the crisis ravaging the Greek economy, 250,000 stores and companies of various sizes have gone out of business and over one million jobs have been lost. If the Marinopoulos supermarket chain goes the same way it would add another 400 closed outlets and 13,000 more layoffs.”