May 17, 2016 / 6:46 AM / a year ago

Canada's Hudson's Bay plays down more Europe expansion

A woman holds a Hudson's Bay shopping bag in front of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) flagship department store in Toronto January 27, 2014.Mark Blinch

TORONTO/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Canadian department store operator Hudson's Bay Co (HBC.TO) said on Tuesday it will open up to 20 stores in the Netherlands in the next two years, but played down the chances of entering more countries in Europe.

Hudson's Bay, which was founded in 1670 and is the oldest continuously operating company in North America, has expanded into Europe to help mitigate the impact of challenging markets in the United States and Canada.

The company, which also owns U.S. luxury retail chain Saks Fifth Avenue, said on Tuesday it planned to lease prime locations in the Netherlands previously occupied by the oldest Dutch department store, V&D, which went bankrupt in December.

The expansion means it will have a presence in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands as it pursues its aspiration to become a "premier global retailer"

However, Executive Chairman Richard Baker said the company was not in a hurry to enter new countries.

"We don't have any great need of desire or focus on going to any other country at the moment. We really like, in those countries, the fact that there's very little competition. That's a big advantage for us," Baker said.

Last June, Hudson's Bay bought Germany's leading department store, Kaufhof, for 2.8 billion euros ($3.2 billion) giving it a presence in Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Baker said the business was now well-diversified with half its profit coming from the United States, 30 percent from Europe and 20 percent from Canada.

"We think we have a lot of opportunity within that portfolio," he said.

The Netherlands deal marked the first time the company had taken the Hudson's Bay brand outside Canada.

Baker said the reason for using the Hudson's Bay brand rather than Saks was because the Netherlands had a "special affinity" with Canada, citing their relationship during the World War Two.

"There is a great affinity for Canadians here in the Netherlands. When we did our research we found that the Dutch people had a great affinity for Canadians and for the Hudson's Bay Company," he said.

Hudson's Bay expects its first Dutch store to open in the summer of 2017.

($1 = 0.8840 euros)

Editing by Jason Neely and Steve Orlofsky

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