Wal-Mart Seen in Russia in 2 Years

NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores, the world's biggest retailer, could expand its reach into Russia within the next 24 months, according to a research note from UBS.

"We believe expansion into Russia rounds out Wal-Mart's 'BRIC' exposure," UBS analyst Neil Currie wrote in a note late last week.

Currie said he expected Wal-Mart to make the leap into Russia within the next 12 to 24 months, probably by taking a minority stake in a local retail chain.

"Similar to its path in China, we believe Wal-Mart may be willing take a low share position in Russia initially for a growing share opportunity in the long run," he wrote.

Wal-Mart has said publicly that it is interested in expanding into Russia. At the company's analyst meeting in October, chief executive Lee Scott said Wal-Mart hoped to be in the country "at some point in the future."

Scott called Russia a "growing consumer nation." Consumers in Russia have shown a propensity to spend, he said, while in other developing countries they tend to save. UBS said Russia offered an attractive food retailing market with 2006 sales of $144 billion and one in which share is not highly concentrated."