Wal-Mart Stores Inc has joined the Russian retail association, the latest in a series of moves indicating the world's largest retailer's interest in expanding into Russia.
"Wal-Mart is working on the Russian market," Ilya Belonovskiy, the executive director of the 28-strong industry group told Reuters. He declined to elaborate.
Members of the association include French retail giants Carrefour and Auchan, Germany's Metro AG and Russia's largest food retailers X5 Retail Group and Magnit.
In April, Wal-Mart appointed an executive to head its efforts to explore business opportunities in Russia and neighboring markets.
In June, the company said it was "exploring opportunities in Russia," weeks after it acknowledged taking "active steps" to research Russia and nearby countries in Eastern Europe.
A source with an investment bank advising Wal-Mart told Reuters the U.S. company was in acquisition talks with Russian chains that may need a cash injection.
"It's a very opportune moment for Wal-Mart now that assets are getting cheaper," he said.
The Russian retail sector has been badly hit by a credit squeeze triggered by the global economic crisis, which analysts say could speed up consolidation within the fragmented sector.
A source with a headhunting agency familiar with Wal-Mart's expansion plans in Russia said the U.S. giant has been hiring administrative staff. "There are already about 30 managers working in their team," the source said.
Wal-Mart currently operates in a dozen markets outside of the United States including Japan and China. It has also established a joint venture in India.