Wal-Mart weighs bid for Li's Hong Kong supermarket chain: sources

Wed Aug 7, 2013 12:22am EDT
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By Stephen Aldred and Denny Thomas

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote) is considering making a bid for the Hong Kong supermarket business being sold by a company controlled by Asia's richest man Li Ka-shing, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Li's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd 0013.HK conglomerate has set an August 16 deadline for initial bids for ParknShop, which it values at as much as $4 billion, sparking interest from corporate and private equity buyers.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is working with a bank as it weighs its options for ParknShop ahead of next week's preliminary bid deadline, the people said.

Wal-Mart declined to comment. The sources declined to be identified because the discussions are confidential.

Last year, Wal-Mart announced plans to open 100 new stores in China over the next three years and create 18,000 jobs in an effort to boost its mainland China business. Wal-Mart opened its first China store in 1996 and now operates over 380 stores spread across various formats, including Supercenters, Sam's Clubs and Neighborhood Markets.

But foreign retailers such as Wal-Mart have found it challenging to manage growth in China. Sun Art Retail Group Ltd (6808.HK: Quote), a joint venture between Taiwan conglomerate Ruentex Group and privately held by French retailer Groupe Auchan SA AUCH.UL, is China's largest hypermarket chain.

While private equity firms were not initially invited to participate in the process, more recently KKR & Co LP (KKR.N: Quote) and TPG Capital have been invited to bid, the people said.

Other buyout firms including Blackstone Group LP (BX.N: Quote) have held talks with banks about financing a possible bid, they added.   Continued...

Shoppers crowd one of the biggest Parknshop Superstores, owned by tycoon Li Ka-shing, inside a shopping mall in Hong Kong July 25, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip