BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores here is considering rolling its Asda banner out to additional European markets as it explores the possibility of expanding into every country in Europe, Lee Scott, chief executive officer, reportedly said during a visit to Brussels, Belgium, where he and other Wal-Mart executives are meeting with regulators.
Wal-Mart currently operates the Asda supermarket banner in the United Kingdom and also has stores in Germany, but otherwise does not have a presence in Europe.
"We're definitely interested in growth, and a lot of that will come outside the U.S.," said Bill Wertz, a Wal-Mart spokesman. He told SN he could not confirm Scott's specific remarks.
According to a report in the Financial Times online edition, Scott said the company would expand in Europe through a combination of acquisitions and new-store development.
The reports renewed analyst speculation that Wal-Mart covets the purchase of France's Carrefour retail conglomerate, which is itself one of the largest multinational food retailers. France's Auchan and Casino also have been frequently cited as takeover targets for Wal-Mart.
Earlier this year, Wal-Mart was reported to have offered to purchase high-end Italian supermarket chain Esselunga, a privately held company with estimated sales of $3.7 billion. The 100-store retailer is the fifth-largest chain in Italy and is known for its strong online offering.
Buying a native player hasn't always guaranteed success for Wal-Mart, however. After purchasing two small German chains in the late 1990s (Wertkauf in 1997 and Spar in 1998), the retailer is still struggling to show a profit there after running into pricing and cultural hurdles.
Wal-Mart last year generated $47.6 billion, or nearly a fifth of its total revenues, from international sales.
Last week the company also was reported to be considering upping its investment in Japanese retailer Seiyu, the proceeds from which it does not count among its international revenues. Wal-Mart acquired a 6.1% stake in Seiyu in 2002 and has since increased that to 37.8%. According to reports, the company was planning to increase its share in Seiyu to 50.1% this year. It has options to acquire 69.7% of Seiyu, which has 400 stores in Japan, by 2007.