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Thai group buys Berlin's iconic KaDeWe store building

April 13, 2024

The building that houses the KaDeWe, a high-end department store and Berlin tourist attraction, has been taken over by the Thai Central Group. The group is rumored to be interested in buying the retail business as well.

A general view of the department store KaDeWe in Berlin, Germany
Berlin's KaDeWe is perhaps the best-known retail location in GermanyImage: Annegret Hilse/REUTERS

Thai developer Central Group has acquired the property housing Berlin's iconic KaDeWe department store after reaching an agreement with insolvent owner Signa Prime Selection, Central said on Friday.

"We are pleased to add KaDeWe Berlin to Central Group's historic flagship luxury store real estate portfolio," said Central Group chief executive Tos Chirathivat.

"The additional capital investment demonstrates our family's commitment to the KaDeWe Group, our loyal customers, employees, and business partners in Europe," he said in a statement.

Why is the KaDeWe store famous?

KaDeWe, short for "Kaufhaus des Westens" or "Department Store of the West," first opened its doors in 1907 and is one of the largest department stores in Europe. The 650,000-square-foot (60,000-square-meter) store is perhaps the best-known retail location in Germany.

Its well-stocked shelves symbolized the capitalism and consumerism of the West, a stark contrast to life in the communist East when Berlin and Germany were divided during the Cold War.

The Thai group, a multinational conglomerate with a sprawling retail and real estate portfolio, did not confirm the purchase price. But Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper put the figure at about €1 billion ($1.1 billion).

When East Germans stormed the KaDeWe

What will happen to the KaDeWe Group?

According to industry experts, the Thai group is also one of the leading candidates for a complete takeover of the entire KaDeWe Group, including the retail business itself.

In addition to the famous high-end KaDeWe store in Berlin, the KaDeWe Group also includes the Oberpollinger department store in Munich and the Alsterhaus department store in Hamburg.

Central currently holds a 50.1% stake in the luxury department store chain, while 49.9% belongs to the financially troubled Signa Group, owned by Austrian real estate tycoon Rene Benko.

The KaDeWe group filed for bankruptcy in January along with many other companies associated with Benko's sprawling business empire. The company's stores continue to operate under self-administration.

dh/sms (AFP, dpa)

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