MEXICO: Wal-Mart shares hit by corruption allegations
Wal-Mart de Mexico y Centroamerica saw its share price hit yesterday (24 April) as it revealed declining first-quarter margins and the market responded to the news that it was under investigation over bribery allegations.
The retailer, known as Wal-Mex, saw its share price plummet 13% over the course of trading on the Mexican Stock Exchange yesterday, dropping to US$4.34 per share at the market's close.
The decline follows allegations in the New York Times that parent company Wal-Mart hindered an internal investigation into claims that it had spent US$24m in bribing officials to clear the way for store openings.
Delivering its first-quarter results, Wal-Mex reported a 4.9% increase in net income, which rose to MXN$4.7bn (US$357.6m). Net sales increased 14% to MDN95.96bn. Operating profit rose 5% to MDN6.6bn.
Gross margin declined to 21.9%, from 22.4% in the comparable period of last year. The company attributed the decline to a 15.2% increase in expenses in Mexico, combined with the impact of higher markdown levels.
On a pre-recorded conference call with senior executives, the retailer did not address the corruption claims directly, highlighting instead awards given by Euromoney Magazine, for having the best corporate governance strategy in the country, and the Mexican Philanthropy Center and the Alliance for Socially Responsible Companies in Mexico, for being a socially responsible company.
Responding to the bribery allegations, it said in a separate press release that the company is "fully committed to complying with the laws of the countries where it operates, including any state or municipal regulations pertaining to the application for licenses and permits".
It said that the allegations in the New York Times, "if true, do not accurately reflect Walmart de México y Centroamérica's culture".
Wal-Mex said that it cannot estimate the potential liability, if any, related to these matters. However, the group emphasised that based on the facts currently known, it does not believe the corruption investigation will have an adverse effect on its business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
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