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Wal-Mart Confirms Interest in Japanese Daiei Chain

TOKYO - A Wal-Mart spokeswoman here confirmed yesterday that Wal-Mart is interested in acquiring Daiei, a cash-strapped Japanese supermarket operator that is undergoing government-guided rehabilitation. The spokeswoman said Wal-Mart is interested in international growth and will look at opportunities, but refused to elaborate.

Several Japanese retailers, including Ito-Yokado Co. and Aeon Corp., have also been reported as prospective bidders for Daiei, which is being restructured under the Industrial Revitalization Corp. Japan, set up by both the public and private sectors to help struggling companies. The group recently extended its deadline for bids until early January.

Daiei, which is still Japan's third-largest retailer, operates several hundred supermarkets, as well as general merchandise stores, convenience stores, and other formats.

Wal-Mart Stores has a 37.3 percent stake in Japanese retailer Seiyu Ltd., which runs about 400 stores.

According to a report on Asia Times Online, Wal-Mart has tapped Sumitomo Corp., a group that helped it with the 2002 acquisition of Seiyu, to form a consortium to sponsor Daiei’s reconstruction. Goldman Sachs and U.S. investment fund Cerberus Group are also said to be part of the consortium.
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