Top retailers seek 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail

New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) Two of the world’s top retailers, Walmart and Carrefour, vying for a cut in India’s organised retail pie, have asked the government to allow up to 51 percent foreign investment in multi-brand retail.

India allows 51 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in single-brand retail and 100 percent FDI in cash-and-carry or wholesale trading. It has not allowed foreign companies to run multi-brand stores in India.

Walmart has partnered with the Bharti group to operate cash-and-carry wholesale stores and intends to continue the tie-up for multi-brand retailing.

‘Bharti Walmart believes that FDI in multi-brand retail should absolutely be permitted, and ideally without any restrictions (i.e. fully open at 100 percent),’ the company said in a letter to the commerce ministry.

‘Full opening of FDI in retail will create the conditions for the greatest flow of investment to the back-end with the related benefits for farmers, small businesses and consumers,’ it added.

Carrefour, which is also drawing up plans to roll out such wholesale formats, also supports a more relaxed foreign investment policy.

‘Any cap or restrictions on FDI in this sector may result in potential loss of opportunities and avenues of inclusive growth of the retail sector,’ said Carrefour.

The Walmart and Carrefour views were in response to the

the commerce ministry’s recent move to solicit feedback on the subject.

‘Should the government be of the view for staggered opening of the sector to FDI, the cap should be kept such that a foreign retailer is entitled to make a minimum of 51 percent investment with rights to manage the company and bring about efficiency in the operations and induct the best industry practices,’ said Carrefour.

Both retailers recognised the fact that political pressure existed for not opening up the sector, but said the move would help tame inflation, build the back-end infrastructure and result in better prices for farmers.

Bharti Walmart said it was not in favour of having a fixed percentage of investment in back-end operations, one of the suggestions put forth by the government in the discussion paper, as it could turn out to be counter-productive.

‘Given the state of the supply chain in India, much of the investment in the back-end will be up-front, particularly in the initial years. A fixed percentage of investment on the back-end could therefore lead to a

misallocation of resources and take away from where they are most needed to create efficient supply chains,’ said Bharti Walmart.

‘Any stipulation for minimum investment of any fixed percentage in the back end infrastructure, beyond what the foreign retailers are planning to do, will put undue and additional pressure on the profitability margin expected from the retail operations and negatively influence the viability of the operations,’ said Carrefour.

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