Tuesday, May 05, 2009

International retail: Russia, Japan

I've been ignoring developments outside the US a bit lately. There's been enough action here recently to keep us all focused.

But for retailers, the opportunities for growth may look better overseas. Carrefour is apparently in negotiations to buy one of Russia's leading grocery chains:
French retail giant Carrefour is negotiating to buy Russian supermarket chain Sedmoi Kontinent for 1.25 billion dollars (938 million euros), the daily Kommersant reported.

The paper, quoting an unnamed senior Western investment banker close to the talks, said Carrefour would formally submit its bid on May 15 under the terms of a preliminary agreement signed in April.

The paper said the French retailer would pay 1.25 billion dollars to acquire 75 percent of Sedmoi Kontinent and 100 percent of Mkapital, the firm managing the real estate holdings of the Russian supermarket chain.
Russia could be an interesting market to watch, since my first thought when I saw this article was, "Hey, didn't I see something a few weeks ago about Walmart planning to enter Russia?" As a matter of fact, I had:
Reports of out Russia suggest Wal-Mart Stores Inc. may be in negotiations to buy a controlling stake in one of the country's leading “hypermarket” big box retailers. An article in the Kommersant newspaper said the ownership stake in Lenta could approach 51%. This follows similar reports in July 2008.
As the quote indicates, Walmart has been looking at Russia for a while. Presumably they'll take the leap soon, especially now that Carrefour has gone first.

Meanwhile, in Japan, where Walmart, Tesco, and Metro are established, the Wall Street Journal thinks the action is going to be defensive consolidation by local chains, especially by the biggest of the locals:
Still, any efforts to push their presence out into the regions by Wal-Mart, Tesco or Metro may put them into competition with domestic heavyweight and serial acquirer Aeon.

"Aeon's strategy has been one of looking at M&A as a platform for sales volume expansion," says Larke. "It's seen what the large overseas competition have done and come to the conclusion that sales volume is the way to go."

In the past three years it - or its affiliates - have on average conducted a merger, private placement or capital tie-up with another retailer every two and a half months, according to data from CapitalIQ.
Carrefour pulled out of Japan a few years ago, and Walmart has struggled there.

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