Wal-Mart Buys Stake in Central American Retailer

Bentonville, Ark., Wal-Mart Stores announced it has purchased a 33.3% stake in Central American Retail Holding Co., or CARHCO, from Dutch retailer Royal Ahold NV. Financial terms of the deal were not discussed. CARHCO is the larger retailer in Central America, with stores in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It posted sales of $2 billion in 2004.

The investment is Wal-Mart’s first in Central America, although the region is a major source of apparel for the chain. As part of the agreement, Wal-Mart will acquire additional interests over time in CARHCO, with the goal of achieving majority ownership in the company.

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to invest in the future of Central America,” said John Menzer, president and CEO of Wal-Mart International. “We are joining a strong partnership that is delivering outstanding service to customers throughout the region.”

Significant investments are planned in the years ahead to open new stores, Menzer said. In addition, specialized training programs are planned for CARHCO associates and for suppliers to assist in business development.