Walmart has found new buyers for Asda, its last major outpost in Europe.
The company said on Friday it was selling a majority stake to private equity firm TDR Capital and the founders of a global convenience store business. The deal values the UK supermarket chain at £6.8 billion ($8.8 billion), not much more than Walmart paid for it two decades ago. Walmart will retain a minority stake in Asda and a seat on the board.
The sale comes more than a year after antitrust regulators blocked the US retail giant's plans to merge Asda with UK rival Sainsbury.
'We are very proud to be investing in Asda, an iconic British business that we have admired for years,' Mohsin and Zuber Issa said in a statement. The brothers are co-CEOs of EG Group, a UK retailer based in Blackburn that operates gas stations and convenience stores at more than 6,000 sites across North America, Europe and Australia.
Asda has more than 600 stores across the United Kingdom and 18 gas stations, according to Walmart. It employs more than 145,000 people and serves more than 18 million customers each week.
Online grocery sales have soared in Britain since coronavirus lockdowns were introduced in March, and Asda has benefited from that trend. The group doubled its online operations during the pandemic, Walmart said.
Asda's new owners said they want to help the company 'serve a wider base of UK shoppers,' and will invest over £1 billion ($1.3 billion) in the next three years into the business and its supply chain.
Walmart will remain a strategic partner, according to Judith McKenna, head of the US company's international business. 'Asda has been a powerhouse of innovation for the rest of the Walmart world, and we look forward to continuing to learn from them in the future,' she said.
Walmart bought Asda in 1999, paying £6.7 billion ($10.8 billion at the time) for one of Britain's top three supermarket chains. It has been trying to offload the company since at least 2018, following an exit from Germany, its other major outpost in Europe, in 2006.
Its plans to merge Asda with Sainsbury's in a deal valued at $10 billion were derailed by regulators who said it would be bad for consumers and lead to higher prices.
Charlie O'Shea, senior credit officer at Moody's, said the deal will allow Walmart to focus on international markets with more 'long-term upside,' such as India and China.
— Jordan Valinsky contributed reporting.