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Costco May Venture Down Under

MELBOURNE - Warehouse-style retailer Costco Wholesale Corp., which currently operates stores in Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, among other countries, is eyeing Australia as a new growth market, according to published reports.

The company hasn't secured any store sites Down Under, but it has been researching the country for two years, Bob Nelson, the company's v.p. of finance and investor relations, told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview.

"We're still doing our homework..., (but) "if it happens, it won't be in the next year," he said. "It could be a year, it could be five years."

Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco sells goods at a discounted rate to its estimated 40 million members. The chain has 441 warehouses in North America, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.

Some analysts in Australia have warned that Costco may find the local property market too crowded and zoning laws too strict to set up a substantial number of its warehouses.

Costco's Nelson told Dow Jones Newswires the company is still considering whether "the math works on the real estate," adding "we don't have any sites picked out."

Nelson said the company may consider entering Australia through a local joint venture partner, replicating similar situations in other countries it currently operates in such as Mexico.

He noted that the Australian retail market represents an expansion opportunity for the company, which has been slowly expanding across Asia in recent years.
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