Wal-Mart buys German chain in start of European offensive

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KARLSRUHE -- Betonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has made its first move into the highly competitive European retail market with an agreement to buy the 21-strong Wertkauf group in Germany.

The world's most powerful retailer will pay an undisclosed sum for the Mann family-owned company, which op- erates discount stores, mainly located in smaller cities, with sales of $1.5 billion. Its shops sell a mixture of general merchandise and food under one roof.

Bob Martin, Wal-Mart president and CEO, says the company plans to expand in Europe through retail acquisitions in other countries. In Germany, he believes Wal-Mart will triumph by offer- ing a wider range of premium-priced pro- ducts than others, at lower prices, and by providing friendly service.

According to press reports, other bidders for Wertkauf (translates as "Value Buy") included the Swiss Metro Group and Muelheim-based Tengelmann group (owner of A&P in the U.S.), along with other French and German chains.

Wal-Mart, which has 3,100 stores and sales of $105 billion, first pushed beyond its U.S. borders in 1991, moving into countries such as Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia and China.

Copyright December 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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