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Image credit: Seiyu

Brief: Rakuten, KKR buy into Walmart’s Japanese supermarket giant Seiyu

March 3, 2021

  • Tech company Rakuten and investment firm KKR have completed their purchases of stakes in Seiyu, one of Japan’s largest supermarket chain operators.
  • Rakuten subsidiary Rakuten DX Solution — which is focused on “the digital transformation of brick-and-mortar retailers” — has acquired a 20% stake in Seiyu, while KKR has acquired a 65% holding. US retailer Walmart, which held 100% of the company prior to the deal, retains the remaining 15%.
  • Founded in 1963, Seiyu has over 300 retail units — including supermarkets, hypermarkets, shopping malls, and department stores — across Japan, selling “a broad assortment including fresh food, general merchandise, and apparel.”

Why it matters:

The involvement of Rakuten, which is Japan’s leading e-commerce player, in the deal points to the shareholder’s tech ambitions for Seiyu.

The supermarket chain has already partnered with Rakuten to launch Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper, an online grocery delivery service, which reported a 40% year-on-year increase in gross merchandise sales in Q4 2020. The unit recently opened a fulfillment center in the Greater Tokyo region, and has another planned for Greater Osaka later this year.

Seiyu also announced the appointment of retail veteran Tsuneo Okubo as its new CEO.

“We are excited to accelerate Seiyu’s digital transformation to better meet the evolving shopping needs of our customers while continuing to expand on strong in-store presence in communities across Japan,” Okubo said in a statement.

“I look forward to working with our talented team of associates to build on Seiyu’s progress to become Japan’s leading omnichannel retailer.”

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