South Korea's Lotte to sell China shops in face of boycott

South Korea's Lotte to sell China shops in face of boycott

Lotte's Chinese stores have been badly hit by consumer boycotts and stringent inspections after the company provided a golf course near Seoul to be used for the controversial THAAD system. (Photo: AFP/Johannes Eisele)

SEOUL: South Korea's Lotte Group is to sell some of its Chinese stores in the face of crippling measures imposed by Beijing over a US missile defence system, it said on Friday (Sep 15) - and could dispose of them all.

Lotte provided a golf course to Seoul for the THAAD missile-interception system installed by South Korea and the US to defend against the North's missile threats.

China strongly opposes the system as a threat to its own security, and has hit the retail giant - South Korea's fifth-biggest conglomerate - with unofficial sanctions.

About 80 per cent of the 112 Lotte Mart stores in China have been closed for more than six months as authorities tightened safety and sanitary inspections and consumers boycotted them, costing Lotte hundreds of millions of dollars.

"We have decided to start selling stores in China where we've been unable to operate normally for a long while," a Lotte Group spokeswoman told AFP.

"But it has not yet been decided whether we will sell them all or some of them," she added.

The group's key subsidiary, Lotte Mart, in March had to inject 360 billion won (US$318 million) of emergency funds to keep the China stores afloat and recently decided to pour in an additional 340 billion won.

Lotte Mart estimates that it could lose one trillion won this year if the trend continues.

Lotte, which has invested more than ten trillion won in its Chinese operations since 1994, has named US investment bank Goldman Sachs as the lead manager to sell the China stores, the spokeswoman said.

Talks are underway with Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group, which runs other supermarket chains in China, the Yonhap news agency said.

Source: AFP/jp