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Retail

Karstadt board postpones restructuring meeting

A board meeting concerning the overhaul of loss-making department store chain Karstadt has been indefinitely postponed. Executives were going to discuss restructuring plans after an Austrian investor's takeover.

The Karstadt supervisory board announced Tuesday that it had postponed a meeting scheduled for August 21, where executives would have discussed plans for the floundering department store chain's restructuring.

Chairman Stephan Fanderl said the meeting had not been rescheduled because the board wanted to wait for a decision by German anti-trust regulators on the recent takeover of the 133-year-old retailer by Austria's Signa Group.

"We are still determined to start restructuring Karstadt thoroughly and as soon as possible," Fanderl said.

Last Friday, Karstadt's board asked Germany's Federal Cartel Office to approve the retail group's takeover by Signa. A decision on the transaction is not expected until mid-September at the earliest.

Austria's Signa Group bought Karstadt from billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen after he put the department stores chain back on track in the country's intensely competitive retail sector.

Signa said Berggruen, who bought Karstadt in 2010, would completely hand over ownership of the group to Austrian investor Rene Benko.

Can Karstadt be saved?

A successful business model

The group's CEO, Wolfram Keil said Karstadt's current situation was difficult.

"In the face of the problems at hand, it's now important to make calm decisions with a view to getting the chain back on track again," he said.

Occupying prime sites in Germany's main shopping centers, Karstadt had in recent years battled falling sales as well as criticism of what pundits called its out-to-date retailing style. In particular, the chain had been attacked for failing to attract younger shoppers and for not producing a successful model for online shopping.

A deal had been in the works for months for Karstadt, which employs some 17,000 people.

uhe/cjc (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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