Walmart eyeing Turkish retailer Migros

Turkish retailer Migros appears to fit Walmart’s acquisition criteria even if the timing of a potential deal is less than ideal.

Turkey’s leading retailer has been in the headlines a lot this year because the company’s private equity owner, BC Partners, is reportedly looking to dump its ownership position roughly four years after acquiring a majority stake. Various international retailers are said to have had discussions with BC Partners and Walmart is the latest, according to reports this week by the Financial Times, Reuters and other international sources.

As is often the case, reports about Walmart’s international intentions tend to take on a life of their own and the company never comments on speculation. That said, there tends to be fire where there is smoke and over the past decade similar rumors out of places such as Japan, China, Brazil, South Africa and Chile ultimately proved accurate.

If that proves to be the case with Migros, Walmart would pick up the type of retailer that has suited acquisition criteria, which is to say a dominant player in a new market (D&S in Chile, Massmart in South Africa) or an operator in an existing market (Netto in the United Kingdom) that enhances Walmart’s leadership position. In Turkey, Migros is a multi-format operator with a dominant market share that has more than 1,000 locations throughout the country.

"Migros is a unique investment opportunity, with its market leading position, strong and trusted brand, multi-format strategy, and extensive store network across Turkey," is what BC Partners senior partner Francesco Conte had to say back in 2008. "All of these factors make Migros ideally positioned to benefit from the country’s rapidly growing organized food retail market, the favorable demographic trends and the positive dynamics of the Turkish economy."

While Migros may be a good fit for Walmart and a transaction wouldn’t dent the company’s balance sheet, a possible deal comes amid an ongoing and expanding investigation into alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that has already cost Walmart $100 million. Walmart has offered no indication when the matter will be resolved.

Meanwhile, the international division continues to forge ahead. Walmart’s international sales and profits during the third quarter were characterized as solid and through the first nine months of the fiscal year sales were up 7.6% to $97.3 billion and operating income is up 9.6% to $4.3 billion. The company indicated that it is gaining market share in every country where it operates except China.

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