I don't normally read the business section of the Sueddeutsche.
But today I happened to take a peek, and stumbled over a commentary entitled "A chance for Karstadt: Arcandor is more important than Opel, and there are reasons for government support".
So I took a closer look to learn what those reasons are:
- The first reason is that Karstadt alone already provides jobs for "more than 50,000 people", twice as many as Opel does. I see.
(I wonder if I should be finicky enough to mention that according to the interim financials, Karstadt had 23,627 staff as of 31/12/08 based on "full-time equivalents". 330 head-office staff will be retrenched until May, and there is a gradual head-count reduction in the department stores. So by now, they are probably below 23,000.)
- The second reason: In many small and mid-sized cities, Karstadt department stores are anchors preventing a "domino effect". If Karstadt stores - "essential inner-city magnets" - close their doors, German inner cities might turn into "American-style wastelands". In other words: If people can no longer shop at Karstadt, they will shop nowhere else either. In particular, inner-city pharmacies, bakeries and restaurants will have to close down. I see. Maybe government subsidies for those pharmacies, bakeries and restaurants are also called for? Just an idea.
- Thirdly, it is not clear that the "traditional department-store concept" has no future. No, "some people" actually see potential, because "some customers" like the Karstadt concept involving "everything under one roof with competent sales staff". And because of this convenient fact that "some people" actually like to shop at Karstadt, the amount of money needed to rescue Arcandor is much smaller than for Opel. I see.
- Point four: Arcandor is only in existential trouble due to the banking crisis. This is not explained further, but I guess the implied idea is that healthy banks would not hesitate to provide Arcandor with more money. I see.
- And finally: Metro's offer to merge Karstadt into Kaufhof is "bad style" because it involves "getting the assets at a cheap price and picking raisins". In other words: Instead of letting Kaufhof take over Karstadt with no taxpayer money involved, the taxpayer should help Arcandor with a 650 m € guarantee and a 300 m € KfW loan to avoid that Metro gets a good deal. I see.
Conclusion: I knew there was a reason why I don't normally read the Sueddeutsche's business section...
(By the way: Most Karstadt locations were sold to a Goldman Sachs real estate fund a few years ago. I wonder how much rent Karstadt is paying...?)
(Previous post on Arcandor)