In a significant development for the nation’s retail industry, locally-run conglomerate Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation (OCIC) and Thailand’s second-largest hypermarket operator Big C have solidified their partnership with a mega project just northeast of central Phnom Penh.

The partnership, formalised through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on September 29, is geared towards the establishment of a Big C hypermarket on a 2.7ha plot adjacent to the Sovann Machha roundabout in OCIC’s “satellite city of Chroy Changvar”.

Key figures present at the signing ceremony included Pung Kheav Se, the chairman of Canadia Bank and OCIC, and Big C chief operating officer Gary Hardy. Also present were OCIC directors Lim Lina and Lim Lychin.

This collaboration, they said, not only underscores a commitment to Cambodia’s economic advancement but also demonstrates a dedication to promoting and supporting local businesses.

Hardy emphasised the significance of this agreement, stating that the signing ceremony has transformed their initial understanding into a legally binding commitment.

“Today is the formal signing of the legal documentation which will now be submitted to the land registry … While previously it was an understanding and a joint working partnership, today it has become a legal commitment, and the 30-year lease is now signed,” Hardy remarked.

“So, it’s more formal, it’s more legal, it’s more 100 per cent commitment. So that’s the fundamental difference,” he added.

Highlighting their commitment to Cambodia’s future, Hardy disclosed the investment Big C is making in the project.

The hypermarket, soon to break ground, will enhance the concept of shopping by offering a selection of fresh produce, dry goods and imported products in a space familiar to Big C shoppers.

“With our shared commitment to excellence consistent with the vision of our founder and chairman Pung Kheav Se, we aim to evolve the retail experience for residents by providing a wide range of high-quality products in a clean and spacious environment. This collaboration reflects OCIC’s dedication to driving economic growth and enhancing the well-being of the community we serve,” said Lychin.

Hardy noted that the anticipated investment in the construction was approximately $15 million. He mentioned their commitment to a 30-year lease, with an option to extend after 25 years, highlighting their long-term plans and the intention to stay well beyond the initial 30 years.

He mentioned Big C’s long-term commitment to Cambodia, citing their 30-year anniversary in Thailand as evidence of their dedication.

He also expressed pride in investing $15 million in the project, which is expected to create approximately 600 jobs, with a focus on promoting Cambodian brands in the city centre development.

“We want to become part of the community. We don’t just want to be a Wal-Mart who pops up in Germany and fills it with Americans. We want to build a long sustainable business here,” he said.

On the project’s timeline, Hardy revealed expectations that Big C will open its doors within 10 to 12 months.

The construction, typically taking around six to seven months, will result in a two-storey, 12,000sqm facility, with Big C occupying approximately 4,000sqm.

He also underscored their commitment to sourcing locally, working with Cambodian brands whenever possible.

“Our focus and priority will be bringing in as much local business as possible,” he said.

Addressing the competitive landscape in Cambodia, he welcomed competition as a driver of innovation and benefit to consumers.

“Competition is healthy. And the winner for any competition is always the consumer,” he told The Post.

OCIC vice-president Tea Thierry highlighted the positive impact of foreign investment in Cambodia’s thriving economy.

He expressed gratitude for the trust placed in OCIC by Big C, noting that this collaboration would contribute to the country’s growth.

He confirmed that the project has a 30-year investment outlook for both conglomerates, with a focus on providing more options to serve the nation’s rapidly developing population.

Thierry underscored the importance of innovation in catering to the changing lifestyles of current and upcoming generations. He also welcomed the influx of foreign investments from Thailand, acknowledging Big C’s regional presence.

“We acknowledge that Big C operates more than 2,000 outlets in the region, from Vietnam to Laos, Thailand, and recently Hong Kong … We are very proud that you trust OCIC for your partnership in Cambodia,” he said.

“Spending more time with family, work life balance, education for children, sports and caring for the environment while having wider choices are some of the key criteria in the consumer behaviour of the young generation,” he said.

“The population that is younger than 30 years old represent close to 70 per cent of the population of Cambodia,” he pointed out.