South Africa’s Massmart approves Wal-Mart bid

New York City -- The shareholders of South African Massmart chain have overwhelmingly accepted Wal-Mart's offer to buy 51% of their company, the chief executive said Monday, paving the way for Wal-Mart to enter Africa.

Massmart said the proposal was approved by 97% of shareholders who voted Monday -- 75% approval had been needed. Wal-Mart offered 148 rand (about $20) per share in a 17 billion rand (about $2 billion) deal.

The deal will have to be approved by South Africa's anti-monopoly regulators.

Massmart CEO Pattison said once the deal goes through, Massmart will continue to operate the stores and continue to be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, while Wal-Mart will be the main owner. Massmart runs about 290 big-box, pharmacy, electronics and other stores in 14 African countries.

"They are a great retailer and we really are looking forward to learning something from them, and teaching them something about Africa," Pattison told The Associated Press. "We're excited because they're coming as our partners."

The deal has run into trouble with South African labor groups, who contend that Wal-Mart is anti-union. Wal-Mart has said it would respect contracts and is committed to working with South African unions.

Pattison, the Massmart CEO, said he had assured unions no jobs would be lost and no contracts violated. And he said consumers would benefit.

"We would have failed if we don't bring prices down," he said, in an Associated Press report.

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