Cantillon: supermarkets’ little secrets when it comes to profits

Brussels plans to makes firms with turnover above €750m publish figures in each EU market

Like most supermarket chains in Ireland, Lidl does not publish separate accounts for its operations here. So we are in the realm of the vague. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Like most supermarket chains in Ireland, Lidl does not publish separate accounts for its operations here. So we are in the realm of the vague. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

Lidl’s declaration that its annual sales here exceed €1 billion brings a fresh perspective on the European Commission’s drive for country-by-country reporting.

Like most supermarket chains here, Lidl does not publish separate accounts for its operations here. So we are in the realm of the vague. Managing director John Paul Scally has provided a (very) approximate turnover figure yet was silent on profitability. It’s the same more or less at Tesco, while Dunnes Stores provides even less data.

In this foggy panorama, the Brussels plan looks all the more interesting – and all the more contentious. All firms whose turnover exceeds €750 million would be obliged to publish sales, profits and taxation in individual EU markets.

It follows that country-by-country reporting would bring radical changes to the supermarket sector.

It’s unlikely to happen, however, without some kind of corporate backlash. There have already been warnings from the American Chamber of Commerce that the plan “could harm growth and investment”. There would be no surprise if the European lobby followed suit.

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