German regulator approves Kaufhof-Karstadt merger

German regulator approves Kaufhof-Karstadt merger
FILE PHOTO: A Kaufhof and a Karstadt store are pictured next to each other in the western German town of Trier April 12, 2010. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (GERMANY)/File Photo -
Wolfgang Rattay(Reuters)
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's antitrust regulator on Friday approved the planned merger of department store chains Kaufhof and Karstadt, owned by Canada's Hudson's Bay Co (HBC) and Austria's Signa Holding.

The deal will create a group with 243 department stores in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands and annual sales of 5.4 billion euros ($6.13 billion).

What will become Europe's third biggest department store chain faces stiff competition from e-commerce players such as Amazon and online fashion retailer Zalando , something the regulator noted in its decision which weighs whether merged companies would dominate their market.

"We found that Kaufhof and Karstadt have a market share of more than 25 percent in only a few categories of goods and regions... In addition, online retailers are an important alternative for a rapidly growing number of consumers in most categories of goods," Cartel Office President Andreas Mundt said in a statement.

Several people familiar with the matter told Reuters late on Thursday that the cartel office was poised to approve the deal.

Signa will hold a 50.1 percent stake in the combined company and take the strategic lead on the business' board.

(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi; writing by Tassilo Hummel; editing by Jason Neely, Maria Sheahan and Kirsten Donovan)

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