Jamaican business mogul Gassan Azan has expanded his footsteps across the Caribbean with the acquisition of all five supermarkets of the Netherlands-based Van den Tweel Groep in Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, known as the ABC islands.
The 100 per cent purchase took effect on May 1, Azan told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, pointing out that Sygnus Capital was the lead advisor for the negotiations and lead arranger for the financing of the acquisition made by his investment group Alfabet Holdings Inc.
Azan said that the stores — known as Van den Tweel Supermarkets, Ling & Sons IGA Supercenter, and Warehouse Bonaire — will not be rebranded under his successful Jamaican wholesale supermarket chain MegaMart.
“Each store has its own identity. In fact, the one in Aruba is very American as the market there is very American and our markets in Curaçao and Bonaire, where there are two stores each, are very Dutch, so they will be maintaining their identities,” Azan told the Business Observer.
However, he said that while some of the more recognised Jamaican products are already in the stores, “we will be doing all we can to further expose brand Jamaica in the supermarkets”.
Known for their quality and wide range of products, the supermarkets employ just over 500 people full-time and approximately 200 part-time.
Yesterday, Azan said that he does not anticipate any changes to the current staff; however, there is likely to be “some amount of rationalisation as time goes by”.
Managing Director of the chain Gerard van den Tweel will continue “as a consultant due to his expertise in the business and the islands in general for a period of five years, which can be extended after the contract period has ended”, Azan explained.
Noting that Curaçao's Minister of Economic Development Steven Martina made considerable efforts to facilitate the deal, which began with preliminary discussions three years ago, Azan said he made the investment decision because “first, the opportunity was there, and second, the islands are very investor-friendly and they are also well-respected credit-wise internationally”.
“The ABC islands are among the most stable in the Caribbean [with] a high GDP per capita and investment grade rating which provides a solid foundation for retail business,” he said, adding that the move is a deliberate strategy to diversify his business interests across Caribbean markets.
Asked how the sale discussions started, Azan said he was approached by Van den Tweel who was apparently impressed with MegaMart's success.
“A big reason for the deal clicking was the relationship between Van den Tweel and me as principals; we understand each other's mindset,” Azan explained.