BELGRADE (Reuters) - Germany's Lidl opened 16 stores in Belgrade and other cities across Serbia on Wednesday, launching the discount supermarket chain in the Balkan nation.
Lidl, which opened five stores in Belgrade and 11 in other cities, said it would open more outlets in Serbia later in the year. The retail chain, part of Schwarz Gruppe, operates more than 10,000 stores in Europe.
Germany is a major investor and trading partner for Serbia. Serbia imported German goods worth more than 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) last year, while German investment since 2000 has also exceeded 2 billion euros.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said at the opening of one of the Lidl stores in Belgrade that his country would ensure German investors received the "best conditions".
Lidl's investment in Serbia was 205 million euros ($236 million) and its 16 stores would employ 1,553 people, he said.
Serbia's economy is set to grow about 4 percent this year, helped by rising private consumption, investments and exports, as well as the one-off effect of an improvement in electricity production and a better harvest.
Serbia's foreign trade deficit widened to 3.42 billion euros between January and August, an increase of 29.8 percent over the same period a year ago.
($1 = 0.8661 euros)
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Edmund Blair)