US keeps close eye on Walmart appeal

2012-02-17 09:34

Johannesburg - Whether Walmart ultimately succeeds in buying a controlling share of major South African chain Massmart Holdings [JSE:MSM] could affect whether other Americans come to do business on the continent, a US Chamber of Commerce official said Thursday.

An appeals board for South Africa's Competition Tribunal is currently considering challenges made by agencies and unions who question the approval of Walmart's bid. The government agency is charged with discouraging monopolies and protecting consumers.

Myron Brilliant, senior vice-president of the US Chamber of Commerce's international division, said Americans are closely watching the issue.

"How Walmart is treated does have some bearing on how potential investors look at the continent," said Brilliant, who was leading a chamber team visiting South Africa this week.

According to South African government figures, total US-South African trade last year was more than R100bn, compared to R173bn with China.

Brilliant described South Africa as a gateway to the rest of Africa, and he said increasing trade between the US and South Africa could create jobs in both countries.

Both countries "want growth. We want to see economic growth, and we want to see job growth," Brilliant said. "The message is clear: jobs, jobs, jobs."

Unemployment in the US in January was 8.3%. In South Africa, unemployment figures of 23.9% released earlier this month for the end of 2011 were applauded, because that represented the biggest growth in employment for South Africa since its 2009 recession.

Earlier this month, South Africa's president announced ambitious infrastructure projects. Brilliant said American companies will want some of the business that is likely to generate. But they needed reassurance.

"There's been some uncertainty about the direction of the government," he said.

On mining, South African policy makers have repeatedly said nationalisation is not on the agenda. But some within the governing ANC party continue to raise the issue, and Brilliant said he may not be able to take a clear answer back to investors after his first trip to South Africa.

Brilliant said he also needed to learn more about the reality of a labour force with a reputation of being quick to strike. But he noted a number of US companies are already working in South Africa, proof that management-labour issues can be resolved.

The US Chamber of Commerce calls itself the world's largest business organisation, representing more than 3 million businesses ranging from small shops to international corporations.


  • Shadho - 2012-02-17 15:35

    What about the enormous amount of food and beverages and other commodities the Shoprite Checkers Group and similar Retailers is/are flooding onto the South African Market from various countries. Especially so called House Brands that are imported. Not to mention the short dates on many imported products, WHAT does this tell you?? Yet Walmart/ Mass Mart are being singled out??? Typical of the South African Government and its Cronies and Trade Unions and the WallMart/ MassMart opposition Retailers etc and the double standards applied!!! ...WalMart why bother to stay and invest in a country run by Tyrants!!

      Jenna - 2012-02-18 21:34

      Who needs Walmart? Americans already own 100% of Edgars ,Jet and CNA. Soon every cent of profit from our retail sector will go to America. This is forever. Show me how this can be good for South Africa and Africa. Rather build our own manufacturing output and leave China and America to there own devices.

  • Shadho - 2012-02-17 15:47

    Talk about Walmart treating workers and employee's badly and Not buying local produce and commodities, not developing opportunities for business etc etc. To The Government of the RSA what ever to all the employment and job creations you got from fining the Pioneer Group. 1 Billion Rand not mention all the others that have been fined and penalized..... WHAT HAPPENED TO IT?? WAIT ITS SOUTH AFRICA.. South African people and THE WORLD have a very good idea where it went!! Yet Walmart stands accused??... Walmart and business USA and those of other Countries as whole. Find yourselves another business partner in Africa and teach these tyrants and back stabbers in South Africa a lesson they will rue and regret for ever!!

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