Wal-Mart has refused to be drawn on reports it will make a decision this month on the future of its venture in India.
The US retail giant’s partner in India, local conglomerate Bharti Enterprises, has reportedly indicated the world’s largest retailer will soon resolve what to do in India.
According to a report in Indian newspaper The Economic Times, Bharti chairman and CEO Sunil Bharti Mittal said a decision from Wal-Mart was nearing.
“Within October, I would say, Wal-Mart should have taken a decision of their vision for India and Bharti could have taken a decision whether it matches our aspirations,” Mittal reportedly said. “We are awaiting Wal-Mart’s final response to Indian retail and then we will evaluate our options.”
Wal-Mart and Bharti formed their wholesale business in 2007. The first Best Price Modern Wholesale outlet opened two years later. The venture now has 20 wholesale stores in the country.
When contacted by just-food, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart India said the retailer would not comment on the report.
“We’ve made no announcements and don’t comment on rumours or speculation. India is an important market for us and we continue to study the implications of the new FDI policy on our business,” the spokesperson said.
Last September, India relaxed controls on foreign investment in the retail sector. Overseas companies are allowed to own 51% of multi-brand, consumer-facing stores. Wal-Mart welcomed the move and The Economic Times has claimed the venture between Wal-Mart and Bharti had not opened any new stores for several months.
Last month, reports in India said Wal-Mart had started talks with other companies about opening consumer-facing stores. Again, the retailer refused to comment on what it called “rumours and speculation”.
When India announced overseas retailers were allowed to own 51% of multi-brand outlets, conditions remained on the investment in areas such as sourcing and infrastructure. To date, no retailer has made a move to invest.
In August, India moved to ease conditions it had placed on the new rules governing overseas investments.
Wal-Mart has attracted controversy in India, where it has been accused of illegal lobbying and bribery of Indian officials as it pressed for the relaxation of FDI rules.
In November, the Bharti Wal-Mart venture suspended a number of its employees, one of which was understood to be its CFO, while it investigated alleged violations of US anti-bribery laws.