Japanese Spree

December is a busy month for shoppers the world over. But in Japan this year, it's the retailers themselves who have been the biggest spenders.

On Dec. 21, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) spent $565 million to raise its stake in struggling Japanese retailer Seiyu to 53%. Trading house Marubeni and Advantage Partners, a private equity firm, finalized plans on Dec. 27 to raise their holding in supermarket chain Daiei to 67.7%. But the season's largest deal involves Seven & I Holdings, which owns Ito Yokado superstores and Seven-Eleven convenience stores in Japan and the U.S. On Dec. 26, Seven & I announced that it is spending $1.1 billion to buy an initial 65% stake in Millennium Retailing, owner of the Seibu and Sogo department stores, in a move that will create Japan's largest retailing conglomerate, with sales of $38 billion.

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