This week’s surprise announcement that Mexican retail majors Soriana, Comerci and Gigante are to form a supplier alliance better to compete against US giant Wal-Mart de Mexico (Walmex) could be the first move in a much-anticipated consolidation game.

Soriana, Comerci and Gigante are to set up joint bulk merchandising systems and share technology. Analysts have been quick to interpret this as a move towards further cooperation in the near future. “We would not underestimate the importance of the announcement,” analyst Pablo Zuanic of JP Morgan said in a report yesterday [Thursday].

The three retailers have combined revenue roughly equal to that of Walmex, whose rise to dominance in Mexico has been driven by rapid expansion.

Shares in both Soriana and Comerci rose on the news, while Gigante was untraded, reported Reuters.