TOKYO -- Lawson Inc., Japan’s second-biggest convenience-store operator, is looking to buy chains in the United States as it speeds up overseas expansion with the aim of boosting its number of overseas outlets by about a quarter within a year, according to a Bloomberg report.
The company’s U.S. aspirations echo those of Seven & i’s new president, Ryuichi Isaka, who said he plans to increase the number of 7-Eleven convenience stores in the United States. Seven & i is the parent of Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc.
“In the U.S., where the market is mature, mergers and acquisitions are a simple and straightforward way for us to expand, which would also allow us to buy time to boost the number of shops,” Sadanobu Takemasu, who became Lawson president and COO this week, told the news agency.
The company will focus first on expansion in Southeast Asia. Lawson is not working on any deals at the moment, although one could take place at any time given the opportunity, he said.
The company, which operates about 12,500 stores in Japan and 793 outside the country, is targeting a 26% increase to 1,000 overseas shops by February 2017. It has two convenience stores in Hawaii.
Lawson and other chains such as Seven & i Holdings Co.’s 7-Eleven and FamilyMart Co. are seeking overseas expansion, while competing to displace conventional grocery shops and restaurants domestically amid Japan’s economic malaise, the report said.
Takemasu was an aide to the president at trading conglomerate Mitsubishi Corp. before joining Lawson, and he is expected to help strengthen the ties between the two companies, Nomura Holdings Inc. analyst Masafumi Shoda told Bloomberg. Mitsubishi is Lawson’s top shareholder, with a 33% stake.
The new president will also need to seek cooperation between its convenience stores and other businesses, including the Seijo Ishii supermarket operator, which it bought in 2014, and the United Cinema chain of movie theaters, also acquired in 2014, said Shoda.
Lawson, which has outlets in China, Indonesia and the Philippines, has lagged behind its competitors in expanding abroad. Seven & i has about 40,000 shops outside Japan, while FamilyMart has about 6,000.
“It will require Lawson [to make] a considerable effort to catch up with Seven & i and FamilyMart overseas,” SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. analyst Yoshiyuki Namiki told the news agency.