Despite Bharti Walmart split, govt spikes all chances of more multi-brand retail concessions

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"It is for Walmart to comment on its partnership issues," says Anand Sharma, indicates govt unwilling to budge on multi-brand retail norms. AP
SummaryAnand Sharma defies pressure on govt over Bharti Walmart JV termination.

With Bharti Walmart JV unravelling as both partners go their separate ways, saying foreign direct investment (FDI) environment is still not ideal, Indian government refuses to bend saying it will not relax norms further to placate foreign multi-brand retail companies.

Expressing hope that foreign players will invest in multi-brand retail, Union Minister Anand Sharma today said any policy will take time to fructify into investments and ruled out further concessions on sourcing norms.

"In single-brand retail also, it took almost a year for actual investments to come. We are confident that multi-brand will also bring in foreign players," Commerce and Industry Minister Sharma told reporters while returning from Indonesia as part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's delegation.

Asked if the government would make additional concessions to attract foreign investors in multi-brand retailing, Sharma said, "Any policy needs to be given some time to fructify into investment."

US retail giant Walmart and Bharti Enterprises ended their six-year-old partnership on October 9. They will discontinue their franchise agreement in the retail business and will independently own and operate separate business formats in India.

"While it is for Walmart to comment on its partnership issues, the impression I have got is they want to remain invested in India," Sharma said. "They have committed to invest in back-end retail business on their own, while for front-end retail, they will look for another partner."

On sourcing norms, Sharma said any policy cannot be company-specific.

"The norms have already have been eased for the benefit of the players but the policy also needs to safeguard the interests of SMEs and domestic industry," the minister said.

The government approved 51 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retailing last September and made it mandatory for companies entering the segment to source 30 per cent of their products from local small and medium enterprises.

In July, Walmart expressed inability to meet the sourcing norms, saying it could procure only about 20 per cent.

While the government recently revised the clause to make the sourcing requirement mandatory only at the time of starting the business, Walmart has sought additional clarifications from the government.

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