Japanese convenience store chain Lawson Inc. (TYO: 2651) announced on October 28, 2010 that it will acquire music retailer HMV Japan K.K. from Daiwa Securities SMBC Principal Investments Co. Ltd. for 1.8 billion Yen (US$21.9 million).
The acquisition will allow Lawson to strengthen its stores’ weak music CD and DVD sales. According to Lawson’s own press release, this purchase will enable Lawson to create extensive entertainment merchandise and full range services in all formats, by enhancing the merchandise offerings through its Lawson & HMV stores, Loppi (Lawson’s multi media kiosks) and all its online storefronts, and by utilizing HMV Japan’s highly reliable brand for music and video software, as well as HMV’s leading market share in Japan for these products in both actual store and Internet sales. Industry analysts concur that this strategic move will likely attract more young consumers, the largest segment of customers of convenient stores, by tapping HMV Japan online sales expertise and its more than 4.7 million loyal members.
HMV Japan posted a net profit of 877,000 yen for the fiscal term that ended in April, 2009, but saw a net loss of 4.6 billion yen for the 2010 fiscal year. In an attempt to turn around its business, the company has initiated many cost-cutting measures including the reduction of the number of its stores from 57 to 37 in April of 2010. Its parent company, Daiwa Securities SMBC Principal Investments Co. Ltd. has been looking for a buyer for its struggling subsidiary since the recent slump in the music retail industry.
Culture Convenience Club (TYO: 4756), operator of Japan’s Tsutaya movie and music rental chain, had shown strong interest in buying HMV Japan earlier this year, but negotiations had broken down after both parties failed to agree on a purchase price.
Lawson stores form the 2nd largest convenience (Konbini) store chain (after 7-Eleven) in Japan and currently operate in all 47 prefectures of Japan and in Shanghai, China. It actually originated in the U.S. as Lawson’s Milk Company in 1939. It expanded into a chain of Lawson’s stores throughout the 40s and 50s and was bought by Consolidated Foods in 1959. In 1975, Consolidated signed a deal with Daiei Inc. to establish a series of Lawson stores in Japan. The first Lawson convenience store opened in Osaka in June 1975 and was operated by Daiei Lawson Co. Ltd. which later changed its name to Lawson Japan, Inc.
In 1985, Consolidated Foods changed its name to Sara Lee and sold all its Lawson stores in the U.S. to Dairy Mart which then renamed all the Lawson stores to Dairy Mart stores. From that time on, Lawson stores no longer existed on U.S. soil. In 2002, Dairy Mart was purchased by Quebec based Alimentation Couche-Tard (ACT) which then proceeded to rebrand all the Dairy Mart stores as Circle K stores.
Lawson posted a net profit of 12.56 billion yen for the fiscal year ended February 28, 2010 and has a fiscal forecast of 22 billion yen in profit for 2011.
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