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BERLIN: (FILES) The KaDeWe Kaufhaus des Westens (Department Store of the West) department store is pictured in Berlin, Germany on February 9, 2024. Thailand’s Central Group became the owner of the iconic Berlin department store Kadewe on April 12, 2024, following its purchase from Austrian real estate giant Signa, which resoundingly filed for bankruptcy last year. – AFP
BERLIN: (FILES) The KaDeWe Kaufhaus des Westens (Department Store of the West) department store is pictured in Berlin, Germany on February 9, 2024. Thailand’s Central Group became the owner of the iconic Berlin department store Kadewe on April 12, 2024, following its purchase from Austrian real estate giant Signa, which resoundingly filed for bankruptcy last year. – AFP
Thai group buys iconic Berlin department store

BERLIN: Thailand’s Central Group said Friday it has bought the iconic KaDeWe department store in Berlin from insolvent Austrian real-estate giant Signa. The 650,000-square-foot (60,000-square-metre) store is located on one the German capital’s main shopping streets, and has long been a major draw for tourists.

The Thai group, a multinational conglomerate with a sprawling retail and property portfolio, did not confirm the purchase price, but German daily Handelsblatt put the figure at around one billion euros ($1.1 billion). The news came several months after the company that operates the store, KaDeWe group, filed for bankruptcy, reportedly blaming the turmoil engulfing Signa.

“We are pleased to add KaDeWe Berlin to Central Group’s historic flagship luxury store real estate portfolio,” said Central Group’s chief executive, Tos Chirathivat. Vittorio Radice, a board member of Central Group Europe, said the purchase was “the first important milestone for us in the attempt to restore and restructure the KaDeWe Group operating company towards a sustainable, financially viable business”. Central Group is already a majority shareholder in the KaDeWe Group, with a 50.1 percent stake. Handelsblatt reported the Thai conglomerate was in advanced talks to take over the entire group, which also operates the department stores Alsterhaus in Hamburg and Oberpollinger in Munich.

KaDeWe, short for “Kaufhaus des Westens” or the “Department Store of the West”, first opened its doors in 1907, and is one of Europe’s biggest department stores. When Berlin was divided during the Cold War, its well-stocked shelves symbolized the capitalism and consumerism of the West, a stark contrast to life in the communist East.

As well as problems caused by the crisis in Signa, it has suffered like other department stores as customers increasingly choose to shop online. Signa — which owns the Chrysler building in New York — initiated insolvency proceedings in November, marking the spectacular downfall of its founder, self-made Austrian tycoon Rene Benko. Central Group has been a long-standing business partner of Signa.

Late last year, it also ended another partnership with the Austrian group, becoming the majority shareholder in the group that runs historic British department store Selfridges. – AFP

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