US retail behemoth Wal-Mart looks set to raise its stake in beleaguered partner Seiyu of Japan.

Wal-Mart has an option to raise its holding in the Japanese supermarket operator from 6.1% to 33.4%, and Reuters reports that the US giant is poised to exercise this option now that Seiyu has located a purchaser for its debt-ridden financing division, Tokyo City Finance (TCF).

The move is likely to come before the end of the year and will make Wal-Mart the Japanese company’s top shareholder, ousting Sumitomo.

Seiyu will take a one-time charge of ¥51.7bn (US$422.5m) on the sale of TCF.

Wal-Mart has three options to up its stake in Seiyu. If it exercises all three, it could hold a 66.7% stake in the Japanese group by 2007.