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Family business roundup: Peugeot in talks with GM while Walmart’s profit falls

Two of the world’s largest family businesses had a mixed week. US retail giant Walmart saw profits drop, while Peugeot Citroen reportedly looked to team up with General Motors to better compete in the fiercely competitive European car market.

Two of the world’s largest family businesses had a mixed week. US retail giant Walmart saw profits drop, while Peugeot Citroen reportedly looked to team up with General Motors to better compete in the fiercely competitive European car market.

Walmart, the supermarket chain controlled by the Walton family, said net profits for the year ended 31 January 2012 fell by 4.2% to $15.7 billion (€11.69 billion), from $16.4 billion the previous year.

But despite the fall, the group said it was optimistic about the next 12 months.

"We are pleased with Walmart's earnings performance for the full year," Mike Duke, non-family president and chief executive of Walmart, said in a statement.

"Today, every segment of our business is stronger than it was a year ago, and we're in a great position for fiscal year 2013," he added.

Revenues at the Arkansas-based group, founded by brothers Sam and Bud Walton in 1962, rose by 5.9% in fiscal year 2012 to $443.9 billion, from $418.95 billion the year before.

The growth in revenues was thanks to the recent acquisition of fellow retailer Massmart in South Africa and discount supermarket chain Netto in the UK, which accounted for about $4.7 billion of total sales, said Walmart.

The founding family controls about 48% of the company through the Walton Family Foundation. Second-generation Rob Walton currently serves as chairman of the group and his brother Jim sits on the board.

Meanwhile, Peugeot Citroen is reportedly in talks with automaker GM about an alliance.

According to media reports, the French company and Detroit-based GM are discussing a possible collaboration to develop new engines and vehicles.

Both companies saw sales in Europe take a hit last year, falling by 8.8% at Peugeot Citroen and 1.9% at GM, to 1.68 million and 1.17 million vehicles respectively.

Analysts said that an alliance would help Peugeot Citroen, which is currently headed by fourth-generation chairman Thierry Peugeot, reduce costs and consolidate its presence in Europe, where it is the second-biggest car manufacturer after Volkswagen.

In a statement released on 21 February, Peugeot Citroen said it was looking at potential “cooperations and alliances”, but did not confirm any alliance with GM.

“Discussions are taking place and there can be no certainty at this stage that these discussions will result in any agreement,” the Paris-based group added.

The Peugeot family owns 30.3% of the carmaker but controls 46.26% of its voting rights. 

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