Wal-Mart has insisted that it is watching the Russian retail market closely amid reports of a potential change in ownership at rumoured takeover target Kopeyka.

The world's largest retailer has been linked to Kopeyka and speculation in Russia is growing that the US group could make an approach for the business.

Russia's competition watchdog has given the all-clear for the acquisition of Kopeyka by an off-shore company controlled by its main shareholder Nikolai Tsvetkov.

The move would allow Tsvetkov to consolidate ownership of 100% of Kopeyka's shares, which until recently have been held by his holding firm Ekarpos and three other off-shore holding companies.

One Russian analyst told just-food that the reorganisation could be in preparation for the sale of Kopeyka to Wall-Mart, which made an attempt to buy the Russian company earlier this year.

When contacted by just-food, a Wal-Mart spokesman said the US retail giant was studying how to enter the Russian market but did not comment on the rumours around Kopeyka.

"We believe that the Russian market offers significant investment opportunities, and our Moscow office and organisation will remain in place to continue their work in identifying the appropriate means to enter the market," the spokesman said.

In October, Dr Stephan Fanderl left his role as CEO of Wal-Mart Russia amid reports that he was frustrated at the group's slow pace of expansion.

The Wal-Mart spokesman said Dr Fanderl had left the business "to pursue other interests".

 "A successor will be named at a later time," the spokesman added.