Walmart is seeking a buyer for its majority stake in Asda, revealing talks are already underway with a “small number of interested parties”.
The US retail giant is understood to want to keep its foot in the door of the UK grocery market by retaining a minority share, but will look to offload a major chunk of its interest in the country’s third-largest supermarket.
In a joint statement, Asda and Walmart said: “Following inbound interest Walmart and Asda can confirm that we are currently considering whether there is an opportunity for a third party to invest in Asda, alongside Walmart, in order to support and accelerate the delivery of Asda’s strategy and position Asda for long-term success.”
The move follows a failed merger with Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second biggest supermarket group, last year, which was ruled out by the CMA on grounds of anti-competition.
The UK watchdog said such a merger would create a business with too much influence over the price of everyday goods, and was concerned that the quality of services and goods would be lowered.
Should a buyer not be found, Walmart has said it will look to take the company public.
“Walmart firmly believes that an IPO is an attractive long-term objective for Asda,” the parent company said, describing Asda as “a great business with a clear strategy for the future”.
Asda operates around 600 stores across the UK and holds around 15 per cent market share, though this has been eroded by the growth of discounters Aldi and Lidl.