That's the choice observers say is facing major retailers in Europe in the wake of Wal-Mart's pending acquisition of U. K.-based Asda.
Carrefour apparently chose to dine, disclosing plans earlier this month to acquire Promodes, and other mergers are expected to follow as Wal-Mart Corp., the Bentonville, Ark.-based giant whose footsteps have been shaking up U.S. retailing for more than a decade, begins pacing around Europe.
While Wal-Mart has operated stores in Germany for about a year, its pending acquisition of Asda -- England's third-largest food retailer, based in Leeds -- has put Europe on notice that Wal-Mart has arrived -- an event expected to result in more rapid consolidation among European retailers, industry observers said.
"Wal-Mart's arrival has created a domino effect, and there's a bit of a race on now," Richard Hyman, chairman of Verdict Research, a London-based consulting firm, told SN. "By the end of the year there are going to be several more pan-European deals because everyone is jockeying for position."
The first shoe to drop fell in France with Carrefour's pending acquisition of Promodes -- a move that would make Carrefour the second-largest retailer in the world, behind Wal-Mart.
Netherlands-based Ahold, which has said it wants to boost its European operations, increased its penetration in Spain earlier this month when it disclosed plans to buy two more Spanish retail chains, and there is speculation it might make a play for Sainsbury or Safeway of the United Kingdom.
There have also been reports that Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. and the Blackstone Group, an investment firm, are considering a possible bid for the U.K.'s Safeway plc.
Although many European retailers have a broader international reach than Wal-Mart, observers said Wal-Mart's advantage is its overall size -- with estimated 1999 sales exceeding $150 billion, more than twice as much as the combined Carrefour-Promodes volume of approximately $60 billion.
Consequently, observers in Europe see several potential targets among Europe's retail elite, which includes Tesco, J. Sainsbury and Safeway in the United Kingdom; Auchan, Casino and Leclerc in France; Ahold in the Netherlands; Metro in Germany; and Delhaize in Belgium.
"We haven't decided what our next [European] market will be," said Jay Fitzsimmons, Wal-Mart's treasurer and senior vice president of finance. "What this [proposed Asda acquisition] does is give us a presence in two of three European Union markets [including Germany] with the largest consumer spending."