Healthcare exec joins Walmart
Dijuana Lewis was named SVP healthcare solutions at Walmart the company announced Thursday. She will report to John Agwunobi who serves as president of Walmart’s health and wellness business unit.
Lewis most recently served as president and CEO of health benefits company Wellpoint’s comprehensive health solutions business unit but was dismissed from the company last fall after a senior leadership shakeup. She spent 16 years with Wellpoint and that background and insight should prove valuable at Walmart where she is expected to oversee development of products and services in collaboration with a third-party payer in the healthcare industry.
“Dijuana’s experience developing innovative health solutions, marketing and product development, and provider contracting and relations will help strengthen Walmart’s position as an everyday low-cost provider of health care solutions,” according to a memo from Agwunobi.
Lewis will bring a new perspective to Walmart’s health and wellness unit as Wellpoint is the nation’s largest health benefits company in terms of medical enrollment, with more than 33 million members in its affiliated health plans and a total of more than 69 million individuals served through all subsidiaries.
We might lose and don’t know what it will cost
Walmart this week filed its annual report on form 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and in keeping with good disclosure practices around risk factors the company offered an update on the sex discrimination case that has been all over the news.
What follows is Walmart’s official recap of Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., that was filed in June 2001 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and was heard this week before the U.S. Supreme Court. The company warns that due to uncertainty surrounding a wide range of variables in the case it cannot reasonably estimate possible losses or even provide a range of potential losses but warns such losses could have a material impact on its finances.
According to the filing, “The complaint alleges that the company has engaged in a pattern and practice of discriminating against women in promotions, pay, training and job assignments. The complaint seeks, among other things, injunctive relief, front pay, back pay, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. On June 21, 2004, the district court issued an order granting in part and denying in part the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.
The class, which was certified by the district court for purposes of liability, injunctive and declaratory relief, punitive damages and lost pay, subject to certain exceptions, includes all women employed at any Wal-Mart domestic retail store at any time since Dec. 26, 1998, who have been or may be subjected to the pay and management track promotions policies and practices challenged by the plaintiffs.
On Aug. 31, 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted the company’s petition for discretionary review of the ruling. On Feb. 6, 2007, a divided three-judge panel of the court of appeals issued a decision affirming the district court’s certification order. On Feb. 20, 2007, the company filed a petition asking that the decision be reconsidered by a larger panel of the court. On Dec. 11, 2007, the three-judge panel withdrew its opinion of Feb. 6, 2007, and issued a revised opinion. As a result, the company’s Petition for Rehearing En Banc was denied as moot. The company filed a new Petition for Rehearing En Banc on Jan. 8, 2008. On Feb. 13, 2009, the court of appeals issued an Order granting the Petition. On April 26, 2010, the Ninth Circuit issued a divided (6-5) opinion affirming certain portions of the district court’s ruling and reversing other portions. On Aug. 25, 2010, the company filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court seeking review of the Ninth Circuit’s decision. On Dec. 6, 2010, the Supreme Court granted the Company’s petition for writ of certiorari. The company filed its Brief for Petitioner on January 20, 2011; the Brief for Respondents was filed on Feb. 22; and oral argument was held on March 29.
If the company is not successful in its appeal of class certification, or an appellate court issues a ruling that allows for the certification of a class or classes with a different size or scope, and if there is a subsequent adverse verdict on the merits from which there is no successful appeal, or in the event of a negotiated settlement of the litigation, the resulting liability could be material to the company’s financial condition or results of operations.
The plaintiffs also seek punitive damages which, if awarded, could result in the payment of additional amounts material to the company’s financial condition or results of operations. However, because of the uncertainty of the outcome of the appeal, because of the uncertainty of the balance of the proceedings contemplated by the district court, and because the company’s liability, if any, arising from the litigation, including the size of any damages awarded if plaintiffs are successful in the litigation or any negotiated settlement, could vary widely, the company cannot reasonably estimate the possible loss or range of loss that may arise from the litigation.”
How high is up in China
With 329 stores in China producing $7.5 billion in sales annually, Walmart has experienced dramatic growth since it entered the market in 1996 with two stores. Last year, the company pursued its most aggressive expansion to date with the opening of 49 stores, and at a meeting for financial analysts earlier this week in Shenzhen, China, senior executives detailed plans to get a lot bigger.
How much bigger wasn’t exactly clear, as the company stopped short of providing company specific targets, but Walmart China president and CEO Ed Chan and CFO Roland Lawrence made it clear Walmart is well positioned to serve China’s rapidly expanding middle class.
While China’s rise to become the world’s second largest economy and the migration of its population to urban centers are well documented trends. However, Lawrence put those developments in context of what it means for a retailer whose bread and butter is serving the mass market. He noted that the year Walmart entered the market there were 42 million household that would have been classified as middle class but by the year 2025 there will be an estimated 295 million households classified as middle class.
The migration to urban areas will result in eight cities in China with populations greater than 10 million people. Lawrence and Chan referred to these cities as tier one markets and noted that of even greater significance is the expectation that China will have more than 200 cities with populations in excess of one million people. These are the markets Walmart expects to target in the years ahead as Lawrence noted the Chinese retail industry is forecast to grow at a double digit pace for the next 30 years.
Speaking of Walmart China’s emphasis on smaller tier two, three and four cities, Lawrence said, “This fortuitously aligns our strategy with that of the Chinese government and the growth patterns that are happening in these cities. This is a key strategic advantage of Walmart to be a first mover in many of these locations.”
Aside from simply opening new stores and growing at the overall pace of the market, Walmart has an opportunity to improve profitability by increasing its private label penetration rate beyond the current 3.5% and improving consumer awareness of its low price value proposition. According the Chan, Walmart conducts price comparisons with 51 other companies and it is the lowest price but consumer research show that no single retailer in China is recognized as being the low-price leader in the market.