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Colombia's Largest Retailer Switches From French to El Salvadoran Hands

In a David and Goliath scenario, an El Salvadoran family-owned retailer with 111 stores has successfully acquired a controlling stake in Colombia's largest retailer which has five times the number of stores in Colombia, Uruguay, and Argentina. The acquisition is based on a valuation of $1.18 billion, representing a 51% premium of the share price before the public takeover process was initiated. Previous offers at a similar valuation by a Colombian billionaire were rejected which would have placed the formerly French retailer in Colombian hands.


Exito yellow store front in Colombia


The El Salvadoran retail giant, Grupo Calleja, has emerged as the new owner of Colombian supermarket chain Almacenes Éxito, acquiring more than 85% of the shares issued and outstanding. A Public Takeover Offer ("OPA") was launched in 2023 to purchase 100% of the company's shares at a valuation of $1.18 billion. This all-cash offer stands at a 51% premium over Éxito's pre-bid stock price.


Grupo Calleja is the largest supermarket chain in El Salvador with 111 stores under the Super Selectos brand, employing more than 12,000, and a market share of 60%. This is the group's first major foray outside of its domestic market, and adding Éxito's 563 stores across Colombia, Uruguay, and Argentina will be no small feat. The previous owner is French Casino Group which is going through a painful bankruptcy and debt restructuring of its more than $6 billion debt burden. Divesting Éxito raises some cash and permits a strategic shift to focus on its core markets in France and Brazil.


Éxito is the largest retailer in Colombia and caters to the mid-to-upper tier of mostly grocery shoppers. It has been under pressure from discount grocers, D1 and Ara, and therefore Grupo Calleja's mid-to-lower tier focus might prove valuable. Grupo Calleja is a family business and is still run by the founding family with Fransisco Calleja serving as the president.


Colombian billionaire, Jaime Gilinksi, made two previous offers for the supermarket chain. The first was in June 2002 for a 51% stake in Éxito for $586.5 million which was rejected for being too low but is similar to the valuation of the Calleja transaction. Gilinksi returned a few months later with a sweeter offer for more shares but that too was rejected.

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