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Southeast Asian companies find ideal partners -- each other

Cross-border alliances give global rivals a run for their money

SM Group and its Indonesian partner aim to open 10 Alfamart convenience stores -- like this one in Metro Manila -- in the Philippines every month. (Photo by Kimberly dela Cruz)

JAKARTA With their bright red and yellow signage, the Alfamart convenience stores sprouting up in Manila and other Philippine cities are hard to miss. But what really sets them apart is their parentage: In a market dominated by Japanese brands like 7-Eleven, Ministop and FamilyMart, the Alfamart chain is run by a unique alliance of Indonesian and Philippine companies.

While the Alfamart name is little known to the outside world, some 13,000 of the stores are scattered throughout Indonesia -- more than triple the total number of convenience stores in the Philippines. The chain's founder, Djoko Susanto, started out helping his parents run their mom and pop shop. He built his chain of minimarkets, as they are known locally, by focusing on the most profitable products and selling them at the lowest prices.

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