Wal-Mart Says It Seeks Execs to Mull New Formats, Not Spark M&A Plan

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - The latest attempts by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. here to broaden its retail horizons sparked speculation yesterday it was mulling an unprecedented M&A strategy, speculation that the chain later said was off base.

The speculation arose from Wal-Mart's recent bid to recruit middle-managers with skill sets that, according to recruitment postings on its Web site, include being able to explore the "strategic implications of any possible M&A on our overall portfolio." That was enough for the British newspaper the Financial Times to report that Wal-Mart was on the prowl for M&A experts.

Later yesterday, however, a Wal-Mart spokesman said the newspaper was jumping the gun. "Two months ago we posted a number of middle-management level positions to evaluate our existing formats to achieve better customer relevance," Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley told Reuters. "It would be wrong to speculate how that might translate to future M&A activity."

One of those job postings called for an exec who could build "a comprehensive Multi-Format growth strategy for WM (Wal-Mart) and to propose the development of new formats to complement our current format portfolio and to address new markets' opportunities by meeting the different customers' needs." The posting also included the phrase, "assess the strategic implications of any possible M&A on our overall portfolio."
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