Wal-Mart says in strong position to expand globally

ROGERS, Arkansas (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Thursday that its strong financial position leaves it well positioned to take advantage of acquisition opportunities across the globe.

CFO of Wal-Mart International Wan Ling Martello speaks to reporters in Rogers, Arkansas June 4, 2009. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

“We’re clearly very actively looking at possibilities,” Wan Ling Martello, the chief financial officer of Wal-Mart International, told reporters at a media conference one day before the company’s annual meeting.

The retailer also said it has its sights on Russia, with “people on the ground” in the country.

“We see huge potential for the future,” in Russia, said Vicente Trius, the chief executive of Wal-Mart Latin America.

He declined to comment as to when the retailer could enter the country with an acquisition.

Earlier in the day, Russia’s top grocer, X5, said it expects Wal-Mart to come to Russia soon.

“Wal-Mart is obviously interested in the Russian market and will enter it soon. They have ambitious plans regarding Russia,” X5 Chief Executive Lev Khasis told reporters on the sidelines of an economic forum.

The executives also said the retailer was open to the possibility of acquisitions in Argentina, and that Wal-Mart is “very encouraged” by its business in Japan.

While Wal-Mart has been gaining market share in the United States amid the recession, it is also looking to fuel sales by expanding across the globe.

Last year at its annual meeting, Wal-Mart said Southeast Asia was “an area that has potential,” and it has been vocal about exploring opportunities in Russia. It also recently acquired a majority stake in Chilean supermarket chain D&S.

Global expansion is an area that newly installed Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke knows well, having headed Wal-Mart’s international unit before taking the helm on Feb 1.

At its analyst meeting in October, when Duke still headed international operations, he said the retailer would be changing how it allocates capital to favor emerging markets with high growth potential.

Wal-Mart said at the time that in the past five years, it had allocated roughly 67 percent of the capital in its international division to mature markets, such as Canada and Japan. But over the next five years, the company said it would allocate roughly 47 percent to mature markets and 53 percent to emerging markets such as Mexico, China and Brazil.

Wal-Mart International operates 3,659 stores and employs more than 680,000 people in 15 markets outside the continental United States.

Editing by Steve Orlofsky