Any third party investor in Asda must help growth, says finance chief

Workers fitting a cctv outside an Asda supermarket as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Northwich, Britain, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington

LONDON (Reuters) - Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, will not sell a majority stake in Asda, it’s British supermarket arm, to a third party unless that suitor is beneficial to Asda’s growth, Asda’s finance chief said on Tuesday.

Walmart, whose attempt to sell Asda to UK rival Sainsbury’s for 7.3 billion pounds ($9.6 billion) was thwarted by Britain’s competition regulator last year, said last month it had restarted talks with potential buyers of a majority stake in the grocer.

“There will only be a third party investment in Asda if there is the ability to add something to our business and that Walmart and Asda conclude that it is the right option for growing Asda going forward with the right positioning for long term success,” Asda’s chief financial officer Rob McWilliam told Reuters on Tuesday.

“If that is where we land we know that Walmart is going to remain a committed shareholder in the Asda business and we believe that we’ll get the best of all worlds with what a third party investor can bring, what Asda brings and what Walmart continue to bring to the party,” he said.

Asked if Asda was now worth more than the 7.3 billion pounds ($9.7 billion) Sainsbury’s was prepared to pay, McWilliam said: “Time will tell.”

“What the COVID crisis has shown is that we are a resilient business that wants to do the right thing for society and has done the right thing over this period,” he said after Asda published second quarter results.

Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton