With spin offs, a significant acquisition and the entry of a new chief executive, Europe’s largest food retailers dominated industry headlines last week.

Carrefour, the French retail giant and world’s second-largest retailer, announced plans to spin off part of its property unit and its Dia discount business. CEO Lars Olofsson said the moves would provide Carrefour with more focus and “create value” for its shareholders.

In recent months, there has been talk of mounting pressure from key Carrefour investors – including US private-equity firm Colony Capital and French billionaire Bernard Arnault – for the retailer to improve shareholder returns. However, analysts are unsure how much the spin offs would benefit Carrefour’s shareholders and Olofsson has already sought to defend the decision, arguing that it would allow the company to concentrate on the turnaround of its core business.

Further north on Thursday, Belgium’s Delhaize, the retailer which also has stores from the US to Indonesia, announced the acquisition of Serbian retailer Delta Maxi, a business with 450 stores in Serbia and across the Balkan peninsula.

The deal, struck for over EUR932m, is a notable move for Delhaize. Ownership of Delta Maxi will give Delhaize, which generates around 70% of its sales in the US, greater exposure to emerging markets like Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Of course, investing in such markets carries risk but Delta Maxi is the retail arm of Serbia’s largest company, providing Delhaize with an established business and a platform upon which to grow. Delhaize CEO Pierre-Olivier Beckers also pointed to the possibility of local economic growth receiving a boost in the years ahead if more of the region’s countries join the EU.

Delhaize’s Benelux retail rival Ahold, meanwhile, is facing questions about its own M&A ambitions. The retailer reported its 2010 numbers last week and analysts repeatedly quizzed new CEO Dick Boer about Ahold’s acquisition strategy.

Ahold has made two acquisitions in the US in the last 15 months – the December 2009 purchase of Ukrop’s and the February 2010 acquisition of five Shaw‘s stores from SuperValu Inc. However, Boer was pressed on Ahold’s plans and he admitted the retailer wanted to continue to expand through acquisitions – and revealed that he expects “more opportunities to arise” this year.

Tesco was the European retailer welcoming a new chief executive last week as Philip Clarke, the former head of its international operations, took the helm at the UK business. Clarke will face challenges balancing the growth of Tesco’s newer ventures in the UK – such as in banking and in mobile – with the competitive threat from the likes of Sainsbury’s but it could be in international markets that Clarke makes more of a mark.

The retailer’s operations in the US have proved something of a talking point from the moment the company announced four years ago that it would enter the market. Tesco has faced pressure from some investors to quit the US but the retailer expects to break even there during 2012/13 and last week opened its first stores in northern California. It has plans for ten more by the end of April.

Discussing Clarke’s move into the hot seat, Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said last week that the new Tesco CEO had “already set an ultimatum in our minds” that either the retailer “demonstrates within a year or so a trajectory towards materially improved financial performance – or it’s going to be either closed or sold”.

However, Black said that, should Tesco turn a profit in the US, it would be in a “virtuous situation” as it owns its own HQ, distribution and food production facilities. Expect more on Tesco’s US ambitions next month when Clarke presents the retailer’s annual results for the first time as chief executive.