Belgium-based retailer Delhaize Group has said it decided to quit Bulgaria after concluding it could not secure a “leadership position” in the country.

Delhaize yesterday (26 February) announced a deal to sell its Bulgarian business to local investor AP Mart.

The transaction, expected to close in the second quarter, will see Delhaize’s 54 Piccadilly and Piccadilly Express stores in Bulgaria change hands.

“We’re trying to focus on areas where we have strong leadership positions in markets,” a spokesperson told just-food.

The spokesperson said Delhaize’s business in Bulgaria was not among the five largest food retailers in the country by market share.

He said Delhaize did not disclose sales figures by market. Last month, Delhaize said sales from its entire business in south-eastern Europe rose 5.1% to EUR3.15bn (US$4.31bn) in 2013. A “difficult environment” in Serbia meant comparable-store sales in the region fell 0.3%.

Delhaize entered Bulgaria in 2011 when it bought Serbia-based group Delta Maxi, which also had stores in Albania, Bosnia and Herzigovina, Montenegro and Serbia. Delhaize already had outlets in Greece and Romania.

Since that deal, Delhaize has sold its stores Albania and changed its business in Montenegro to a franchise arrangement.