Walmart clears South African hurdle

Massmart Holdings Ltd. shareholders
backed the sale of a controlling stake in South Africa’s largest food and
general wholesaler to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. as labour unions threatened to
boycott the chain.

Investors voted 97 per cent in
favour of Wal-Mart’s $2.4 billion, offer for 51 per cent of Massmart, according
to Azhar Bham, who chaired a meeting in Johannesburg.

The sale may lead to job losses
because Wal-Mart may not source goods and services locally, Tyotyo James, the
first deputy president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the
nation’s largest trade federation, said at the meeting.

Massmart Chairman Mark Lamberti
said the acquisition is in the best interests of the company, suppliers and
workers.

Cosatu “will organize the mother of
all consumer boycotts,” James said.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville,
Arkansas, is planning to use South Africa, the continent’s largest economy, as
its platform for expansion in Africa to counter slowing U.S. growth.

Massmart has provided assurances to
labour unions that it will continue to honour all existing agreements with
workers if the proposed transaction is concluded, it said in an e-mailed
statement.

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