Bharti Enterprises Ltd and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have called off their Indian joint venture Bharti -Walmart, bringing to an end the troubled five-year saga of the company that runs wholesale (or cash-and-carry) stores called Best Price Modern Wholesale across India. Bharti Enterprises and Wal-Mart said Wednesday they are parting ways to operate retail stores independently in India, ending speculation over the future of their six-year-old partnership.
The US retail major will buy out its Indian partner in their 50:50 cash-and-carry joint venture Bharti Walmart, which runs 20 wholesale stores under the Best Price Modern Wholesale brand in India, for an undisclosed sum. Bharti will acquire $100 million of compulsory convertible debentures held by Walmart in Cedar Support Services, a company owned and controlled by the Indian firm. It will continue to run its “Easyday” retail stores on its own.
In a joint statement, the companies said they have reached an agreement to independently own and operate separate business formats in India and discontinue their franchise agreement in the retail business.
“Bharti is committed to building a world-class retail venture and will continue to invest in Bharti Retail across all formats. We believe that with our current footprint of 212 stores, we have a strong platform to significantly grow the business and delight customers. We wish Walmart the very best for the future,” Rajan Bharti Mittal, vice-chairman and managing director, Bharti Enterprises said in the statement.
Walmart said it plans to continue to grow its “business while working with the government and interested stakeholders to create conditions that enable foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail.” Its Asia president and CEO Scott Price said, “Given the circumstances, our decision to operate independently will be beneficial to both parties.”
The two partners joined hands in 2007 and launched their first Best Price Modern Wholesale cash-and-carry store in Amritsar in May 2009.
With the two companies going their separate ways, everyone’s attention is on whether Wal-Mart will seek a new partner, or enter the supermarkets business here, or both, and on Bharti’s own retail plans.