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Walmart sells majority stake in Seiyu, nearly exiting Japan

Walmart Inc is selling a majority stake in Japanese supermarket chain Seiyu to investment firm KKR and e-commerce company Rakuten <4755.T> for over $1 billion, after years of struggling to make money amid stiff competition….

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Walmart Inc WMT.N is selling a majority stake in Japanese supermarket chain Seiyu to investment firm KKR KKR.N and e-commerce company Rakuten 4755.T for over $1 billion, after years of struggling to make money amid stiff competition.

FILE PHOTO: The logos of Walmart and Seiyu are pictured at the headquarters office in Tokyo, Japan July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The deal, which values Seiyu at 172.5 billion yen ($1.65 billion), comes after on-off speculation about the U.S. retail giant looking to exit Japan. It is well below the 300-500 billion yen it reportedly sought a few years ago.

KKR will buy 65% of Seiyu while Rakuten, which already has an online venture with the chain, will acquire a 20% stake. Walmart will retain 15%, the companies said in a joint statement on Monday.

The world’s biggest retailer first entered the Japanese market in 2002 by buying a 6% stake in Seiyu, and gradually built up its stake before a full takeover in 2008.

But it has struggled in Japan, like other foreign entrants such as Tesco PLC TSCO.L and Carrefour SA CARR.PA who were lured by the high spending power of Japanese consumers but were frustrated by tough competition.

Some analysts said Walmart, while failing to make much money in Japan, had done better than other foreign retailers considering it saved money-losing Seiyu from bankruptcy by cutting costs and improving private brand sales.

“Walmart was always going to struggle, because they had to turn around the business and also they needed to grow volume to really have a viable share in the Japanese market and the only way to do that was through more acquisitions, which it wasn’t willing to spend money on,” said Roy Larke who specialises in Japan’s retail industry at JapaneseConsuming.

Walmart said it expects a non-cash loss of about $2 billion after tax in its fourth fiscal quarter due to the sale.

LATEST DIVESTITURE

The Seiyu deal is the latest divestiture of underperforming assets by Walmart, following its exits in Britain and Argentina, as it struggled to compete with nimble local rivals. In Asia, it pulled out of South Korea in 2006 and shifted focus in China to expanding members-only warehouse chain Sam’s Club as competition from online marketplaces such as Alibaba BABA.N intensified. Walmart is expanding in India, though, with its $16 billion purchase of ecommerce provider Flipkart.

Japanese media reported two years ago that Walmart was seeking to sell Seiyu, which operates around 330 supermarkets, for around 300 billion to 500 billion yen. Sources said at the time that potential buyers balked at the price.

Addressing reports that it was looking to leave Japan, Walmart announced last year that it aimed to list Seiyu and retain a majority stake in the business.

But Monday’s announcement also comes as Seiyu is starting to show signs of improvement, with its relatively early start in e-commerce finally yielding results, helped by a 2018 partnership with Rakuten.

Walmart Japan, mainly the Seiyu business, booked a net profit of 47 million yen in 2019 after reporting losses in most previous years. Seiyu told Reuters earlier this year that the coronavirus pandemic had bolstered interest in online grocery shopping in Japan.

Large Japanese supermarkets such as Aeon Co Ltd 8267.T and Seven & I Holdings Co Ltd’s 3382.T Ito-Yokado have been stepping up their investments in e-commerce as Japanese consumers, long wary of buying fresh fish and produce online, are starting to use online grocery services.

For Rakuten, the deal with Seiyu helps it fight back against rival Amazon AMZN.O, which recently stepped up its online grocery business by tying up with supermarket chain Life Corp 8194.T.

“We look forward to accelerating digital transformation of Seiyu brick and mortar retail, and further merging the best of offline and online retail,” Kazunori Takeda, Rakuten’s group executive vice president, said in a statement.

Reporting by Ritsuko Ando and Chris Gallagher, additional reporting by Uday Sampath; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/seiyu-ma-kkr-rakuten/update-3-walmart-sells-majority-stake-in-seiyu-nearly-exiting-japan-idUSL1N2I10OW

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Reuters

Chipmaker TSMC says too early to say on Germany expansion

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) (2330.TW) said on Monday that it was too early to say whether it will build factories in Germany and that talks were in early stages, as the EU seeks to reduce chip imports amid a supply shortage.

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The logo of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is pictured at its headquarters, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Jan. 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ann Wang

TAIPEI, July 26 (Reuters) – Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) (2330.TW) said on Monday that it was too early to say whether it will build factories in Germany and that talks were in early stages, as the EU seeks to reduce chip imports amid a supply shortage.

The European Commission had held discussions with global chip giants, including Intel (INTC.O) and TSMC, as the EU seeks to boost semiconductor production and shield itself from shocks in the global supply chain. read more

Taiwan and TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer, have become central in efforts to resolve the pandemic-induced chip shortage that has forced automakers to cut production and hurt manufacturers of smartphones, laptops and even appliances.

“We are currently doing reviews on Germany seriously, but it’s still in very early stages,” TSMC chairman Mark Liu told an annual shareholder meeting when asked about building chip fabrication plants in the EU country.

“We continue to communicate with our major clients in Germany to see whether this is most important and effective for our clients,” he said. “It’s too early to say.”

TSMC signalled in July plans to build new factories in the United States and Japan amid concern over the concentration of chipmaking capability in Taiwan, which produces most of the world’s most advanced chips and is geographically close to political rival China. read more

On TSMC’s $12 billion factory in the U.S. state of Arizona, Liu said the expansion would support client demand, especially in infrastructure and national security.

“Clients are the backing of our global expansion. We will move very cautiously,” Liu said, adding that the company’s customers would help share costs of overseas operations.

TSMC announced this year plans to invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity, riding on what it called a “multiple years of growth opportunities”, as the COVID-19 pandemic and new technologies drove global demand for advanced chips.

Reporting By Yimou Lee. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Taiwan and TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip manufacturer, have become central in efforts to resolve the pandemic-induced chip shortage that has forced automakers to cut production and hurt manufacturers of smartphones, laptops and even appliances.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/chipmaker-tsmc-says-too-early-say-germany-expansion-2021-07-26/

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EXCLUSIVE India watchdog accuses Amazon of concealing facts in deal for Future Group unit

India’s antitrust regulator has accused Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) of concealing facts and making false submissions when it sought approval for a 2019 investment in a Future Group unit, a letter to the U.S. e-commerce giant seen by Reuters showed.

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A man walks past an Amazon logo outside the company’s collection point in Mumbai, India, March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

  • India antitrust watchdog threatens Amazon with fine, action
  • Amazon has yet to respond to antitrust body’s notice -source
  • CCI says Amazon made different statements at other legal forums

NEW DELHI, July 22 (Reuters) – India’s antitrust regulator has accused Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) of concealing facts and making false submissions when it sought approval for a 2019 investment in a Future Group unit, a letter to the U.S. e-commerce giant seen by Reuters showed.

The letter complicates Amazon’s bitter legal battle with Future Group over the Indian’s firm’s decision to sell its retail assets to Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) – a matter that is now before India’s Supreme Court.

Amazon has argued that terms agreed upon in its 2019 deal to pay $192 million for a 49% stake in Future’s gift voucher unit prevent its parent, Future Group, from selling its Future Retail Ltd (FRTL.NS) business to Reliance.

In the letter dated June 4, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) said Amazon hid factual aspects of the transaction by not revealing its strategic interest in Future Retail when it sought approval for the 2019 deal.

“The representations and conduct of Amazon before the Commission amounts to misrepresentation, making false statement and suppression or/and concealment of material facts,” the letter said. It also noted that its review of the submissions made had been prompted by a complaint from Future Group.

In the four-page letter, a so-called ‘show cause notice’, the CCI asked Amazon why it should not take action and penalise the company for providing false information.

Amazon has yet to respond, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be identified as the letter has not been made public.

Amazon said in a statement to Reuters it had received a letter, was committed to complying with India’s laws and would extend its full cooperation to the CCI.

“We are confident that we will be able to address the CCI’s concerns,” it said.

Representatives for Future and the CCI did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Vaibhav Choukse, a competition law specialist and partner at J. Sagar Associates, said it was rare for the CCI to issue such a notice and that if the CCI was not satisfied by Amazon’s response, it could lead to a fine and even a review of the deal.

“The CCI has wide powers which includes directions to re-file the approval application and even revoke the approval under exceptional circumstances,” Choukse said.

The CCI’s 2019 approval order states its decision “shall stand revoked if, at any time, the information provided” is found to be incorrect.

Shares in Future Retail jumped after Reuters published details of the letter, extending gains to be up nearly 5% in Thursday afternoon trade.

SUBMISSIONS COMPARED

The dispute over Future Retail, which has more than 1,500 supermarket and other outlets, is the most hostile flashpoint between Jeff Bezos’ Amazon and Reliance, run by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, as they try to gain the upper hand in winning over the country’s consumers.

Amazon also has a host of other challenges in India, a key growth market where it has committed $6.5 billion in investments, including a separate CCI probe into alleged practices that small businesses say have hurt them. read more

In addition, it faces the prospect of more regulations that would restrict the sale of private labels and would prohibit the U.S. firm from allowing its affiliates to list products on its website. read more

The CCI letter compared three sets of submissions Amazon made to it in 2019 with submissions made later to other legal forums, saying they were “contradictory.”

In particular, it said Amazon had explained its interest in investing in Future’s coupon unit as one that would address gaps in India’s payments industry. But the letter stated Amazon had disclosed in other legal forums that the foundation of its relationship with Future Coupon was certain special rights it obtained over Future Retail.

“Amazon has concealed its strategic interest” in Future Retail, the letter said, adding: “Such interest and the purpose of the combination … was not disclosed to the Commission despite specific requirements.”

The CCI also objected to one section of a submission where Amazon had told the regulator it had nothing to do with one particular legal agreement that two Future entities had signed between themselves days ahead of its 2019 deal. But Amazon later claimed before an arbitrator that the agreement was an “integrated part” of the transaction, the letter said.

Reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Additional reporting by Abhirup Roy; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Amazon has argued that terms agreed upon in its 2019 deal to pay $192 million for a 49% stake in Future’s gift voucher unit prevent its parent, Future Group, from selling its Future Retail Ltd (FRTL.NS) business to Reliance.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/exclusive-india-watchdog-accuses-amazon-concealing-facts-deal-future-group-unit-2021-07-22/

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EXCLUSIVE HK’s Apple Daily to shut within days, says Jimmy Lai adviser

Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities froze the company’s assets under a national security law, an adviser to jailed owner Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

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  • Adviser says impossible to conduct banking in financial hub
  • Two executives charged under security law denied bail
  • Newspaper could cease publication on Saturday – memo

HONG KONG, June 21 (Reuters) – Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities froze the company’s assets under a national security law, an adviser to jailed owner Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

The closure of Apple Daily would undermine the former British colony’s reputation as an open and free society and send a warning to other companies that could be accused of colluding with a foreign country, media advocacy groups said.

Next Digital (0282.HK), publisher of the top-selling 26-year-old newspaper, would stop publication on June 26 if a board meeting on Friday decided to halt operations, an internal memo seen by Reuters showed.

“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month. It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days,” the adviser, Mark Simon, said by telephone from the United States.

Vendors had tried to put money into the company’s bank accounts but have been rejected, he said.

Another senior company source with direct knowledge of the matter said the freezing of the firm’s core assets – before any trial or due legal process proved any criminality – had made it impossible to pay wages or even electricity bills.

CHOKED ‘TO DEATH’

“This is an extraordinary thing for a place that prides itself on (being) a global financial center, that you haven’t even filed charges against people and yet you’ve decided you’re going to try to … choke this company to death.”

Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said that media freedoms are respected but are not absolute.

Apple Daily management could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The newspaper said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left it with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations. read more

Chief Editor Ryan Law, 47, and Chief Executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail on Saturday after being charged with conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country.

Three other executives were arrested on Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices, drawing condemnation from Western countries, global rights groups and the U.N. spokesperson for human rights.

Those three are still under investigation but were released with bail.

Security Secretary John Lee told a news conference on Thursday the police operation against the Apple Daily was aimed at those who use reporting as a “tool” to endanger national security and did not target the media industry as a whole.

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau said it would not comment given ongoing legal proceedings and any application related to the frozen property would be handled according to the law.

China’s Liaison Office in the city did not respond to requests for comment.

A supporter holds a copy of Apple Daily newspaper during a court hearing outside West Magistrates’ Courts, after police charge two executives of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper over the national security law, in Hong Kong, China, June 19, 2021. REUTERS/Lam Yik

‘WE CAN’T BANK’

In May, Reuters reported exclusively that Hong Kong’s security chief had sent letters to tycoon Lai and branches of HSBC (HSBA.L) and Citibank (C.N) threatening up to seven years’ jail for any dealings with the billionaire’s accounts in the city. read more

A Hong Kong-based spokesperson for Citibank said at the time the bank did not comment on individual client accounts. HSBC declined to comment.Authorities are also prosecuting three companies related to Apple Daily for alleged collusion with a foreign country and have frozen HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of their assets.

Simon told Reuters it had now become impossible to conduct banking operations in the global financial hub as authorities had “criminalised” any activities with the company’s accounts.

“We can’t bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favour … and it was rejected.”

Reuters could not determine the banks where Apple Daily vendors had tried to deposit funds only to have their transactions rejected.

Rights group Amnesty International said on Twitter that this is “effectively a HK government ban of a newspaper.”

The paper has come under increasing pressure since owner and Beijing critic Lai, who is now in jail, was arrested under the national security law last August and has since had some of his assets frozen.

The senior company source with direct knowledge of the board’s discussions said an application had been made to the Security Bureau to ask Hong Kong security chief John Lee to unfreeze the assets to allow essential payments to staff and suppliers, setting a Friday deadline to respond.

Apple Daily said in an article on Sunday it might challenge the government in court if it refused. read more

The company has about 600 journalists, according to Simon.

The U.S.-based adviser said some reporters had received threatening phone calls from unknown sources.

“Our staff are now just worried about personal safety,” he said.

Police have said dozens of Apple Daily articles were suspected of violating the national security law, the first case in which authorities have cited media articles as potentially violating the legislation.

Simon and the source said their understanding was that about 100 articles were under scrutiny.

“After all this is said and done, the business community is going to look up and recognise that a man’s company was gutted and stolen by a communist regime in Hong Kong,” he said.

“That’s a big deal.”

Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Next Digital (0282.HK), publisher of the top-selling 26-year-old newspaper, would stop publication on June 26 if a board meeting on Friday decided to halt operations, an internal memo seen by Reuters showed.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/business/retail-consumer/exclusive-adviser-jailed-hk-tycoon-jimmy-lai-says-apple-daily-shut-within-days-2021-06-21/

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