Schwarz Group, the company behind Lidl and discount hypermarket chain Kaufland, has secured funding from the International Finance Corporation for expansion in eastern Europe.

The IFC, the investment arm of the World Bank, has said its board has agreed a loan package worth US$108.4m for Schwarz to build its business in Bulgaria and Croatia - and enter Serbia.

"Lidl ... is implementing a long-term expansion plan in Bulgaria and Croatia and is planning to enter the Serbian market in 2014 by opening new Lidl discount stores," the IFC said. "The group, one of the largest European food retail discounters, has requested IFC to provide a long-term loan to its Bulgarian, Croatian and Serbian subsidiaries to partially finance the project."

The IFC said the moves would benefit "small to large local suppliers by applying its strict standards in food quality and safety". Low-income consumers will also benefit, while the organisation said the expansion "is expected to create significant local direct employment, with a large participation of women, currently at above 60%".

Lidl could not provide immediate comment when contacted by just-food.