Panel to advise Patel on Walmart, Massmart deal

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel has set up a panel to advise government on the likely implications of United States’ firm Walmart’s bid to buy more than 50% of local retailer Massmart.

The panel was established, Patel said in reply to a Parliamentary question on Monday, after he met with top executives from Walmart and Massmart last month.

“At that meeting, the two companies provided the rationale for the proposed transaction. Following the dialogue with Walmart and Massmart, I have set up an advisory panel to identify the relevant policy issues and the implications of the proposed acquisition, particularly from an economic development perspective.”

Members of the panel include the deputy director-general of economic development Neva Makgetla, Standard Bank group economist Goolam Ballim, Industrial Development Corporation CEO Geoffrey Qhena and Iraj Abedian from Pan-African Investment and Research Services.

Patel said officials from his department were in talks with Walmart and Massmart to obtain further details about the planned deal, and would also meet with retailers, manufacturers and trade unionists to hear their concerns about it.

“During the envisaged further discussions with the two companies, a number of issues identified in the report of the advisory panel and the views of stakeholders will be canvassed,” he said.

“This will include the issues of the impact of the proposed transaction on social and economic development, local jobs including supplier industries, small business and consumers.”

The SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union has threatened to go on strike if the deal goes ahead. Walmart has a reputation for being at loggerheads with US trade unions.

Saccawu this month handed Massmart CEO Grant Pattison a set of demands pertaining to the proposed deal, including that employment conditions and agreements remain intact afterwards. — Sapa

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