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Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer has its eyes on Poland and CEE

Lee Scott, the chief executive of American supermarket powerhouse Wal-Mart, says his company is considering entering Poland, Hungary and Russia in the near future in a bid to boost overseas sales.

"We now want to be in these countries," Scott told the Financial Times. "It doesn't matter to us which of these will be first. We want all of them at some point."

Scott said the expansion would probably come in the form of acquisitions, and Wal-Mart boasts a cash flow of between $16-17 (zl.53-57) billion per year with which to make them.

Worldwide, Wal-Mart generated $285 (zl.954) billion in sales last year, 21 percent of which came from foreign markets. Scott said he thinks the strategy will raise Wal-Mart's overseas sales by one percent each year, and expects overseas sales growth to equal 30 percent of the company's total sales growth over the next five years.

Which grocer Wal-Mart will gobble up is the question on everyone's lips, but Scott revealed only that Wal-Mart could start making its moves as early as the next six months, and was quick to underline that there are no specific plans as yet.

Therefore, the competition remains cool. Wojciech Sokól, corporate affairs director at Tesco Polska, emphasizes that while Scott mentioned Poland as a target specifically, Wal-Mart could choose to enter a different market in the end.

"They didn't say whether the investment would be in Poland or in some other country," he said, but when pushed to speculate, he pointed to where Tesco and Wal-Mart already knock heads.

"Tesco competes with Wal-Mart with success in Great Britain, and there's no reason to believe that it would be different here in Poland," said Sokól.

(WBJ 4.vii.05)

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