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Following the scaling down of hostilities in Iraq, Turkish-based hypermarket, superstore, supermarket and kiosk operator Migros Türk is rumoured to be once again looking at expanding into the Middle East region. Apparently, Migros Türk has established an Iraqi Committee in Baghdad, through which the company will evaluate the opportunities for investment in the country. In addition, the group has reaffirmed its plans to open an outlet in the Iranian capital of Tehran in 2004.

Whether Migros Türk’s ambitions for Iran and Iraq will actually be realised is an extremely moot point. The region is perhaps the most unstable in the world and the retailer would be entering uncharted territory – as yet no major retail groups have established a presence in these markets.

However, Migros Türk is ambitious and with the opportunities for future growth in Turkey becoming limited, the group is eyeing up growth outside of its domestic market. With existing operations already in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, as well as in Russian and Bulgaria, the company certainly has a track record of entering markets that many other retailers would not consider as a first class investment opportunity. Entry into the Ukraine is being planned with Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia & Montenegro also mentioned as possible targets. Migros Türk is also thought to be thinking about entering Syria and Jordan, although no firm commitment has yet been made.

In this context, evaluating the long-term potential of a market such as Iraq therefore seems somewhat more plausible. If reconstruction is successful, living standards should rise substantially, and presumably some benefits in terms of grants and aid should me made available through the new administration and various international redevelopment agencies. If a more secular government gains power than it is also fair to assume that the process of Westernisation will gather pace. However, much of this is taking an extremely long-term view. If Migros Türk does open up in Iran in 2004, then entry into Iraq is likely to be after that, and only then if the situation has become much more stable.
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