Wal-Mart Salivates for Pan-European Stake

26 May 2004

Good ol' Sam's pile-it-high and sell-it-cheap warehouses adorning every European nation -- that's the dream of Wal-Mart chief executive Lee Scott.

Or so he confided to an eager press during his first visit to Brussels on Monday. The expansion vehicle is likely to be Asda, the UK's second largest supermarket group now owned by Wal-Mart.

In town to confer with European Commission officials, including competition commissioner Mario Monti and consumer affairs commissioner David Byrne, Scott was cagey as to which countries Wal-Mart might enter, or companies it might buy.

But, confided the honcho, he could not conceive of "of any country in Europe that we wouldn't want to be in over the long course of time". Wal-Mart would consider opening its own outlets as well as making large acquisitions.

Said Scott: "If you get an attractive deal in Europe at some point that would be an opportunity. But our growth internationally will be a combination of strategic acquisitions and greenfield opportunities. And we could have Asda stores in some different countries."

Scott made light of the fact that Wal-Mart is far from flavour of the month in many US communities where its labour practices and adverse effect on the local environment have attracted a storm of criticism.

But he admitted: "I will have to spend more time out in public making sure that the other side of the Wal-Mart story gets told: the good things that the company does."

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff