SEOUL, Mar. 16 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korean retail giant Lotte said Friday it plans to wrap up the sales of its hypermarket chain in China by the first half of this year, as potential buyers started to inspect the stores.
Chinese retailer Liqun Group is carrying out an on-site inspection of Lotte Mart’s Chinese stores, according to the Korean firm. It marks the first time that any firm has taken such a step, although many have showed interest and reviewed documents.
“Three to four companies, including Liqun Group, are either in the process of, or planning to carry out, an on-site inspection,” a Lotte Mart official said. “The atmosphere has certainly changed from when companies only looked at documents.”
Lotte’s aim is to complete the sales process by June, when some 700 billion won (US$653 million) of emergency funds it has injected into its Chinese retail business is expected to be used up.
The South Korean retailer announced its decision to sell Lotte Mart’s Chinese stores in September last year after it suffered major losses in the wake of a diplomatic row between Seoul and Beijing over a U.S. anti-missile system.
Lotte bore the brunt of Beijing’s retaliation after it signed a land-swap deal with the South Korean government to provide a golf course as the host site of the missile shield system.
Eighty-seven of its 99 Lotte Mart discount stores in China suspended operations and sales at the handful of stores that managed to stay open tumbled more than 80 percent. The group is known to have suffered some 1.2 trillion won in lost sales in the process.