SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s Lotte Shopping is considering selling its supermarkets in China and other options should political tensions between Seoul and Beijing continue next year, an official at the retailer told Reuters on Monday.
“It is natural that we should have various alternatives, but no discussions or decisions have been made regarding detailed plans,” the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
He did not elaborate on what other options were under consideration.
South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Saturday that Lotte plans to gradually sell as many as 50 of its 99 Lotte Mart stores in China and slash its Chinese workforce, citing a high-ranking official at its parent group, South Korea’s No. 5 conglomerate.
Seventy-four of Lotte’s 99 Mart stores in China were closed by fire authorities over safety violations such as boxes blocking exit doors. Another 13 stores were shut down because of difficult business conditions.
China has pressured South Korean businesses via boycotts and bans since Seoul decided last year to deploy a U.S.-made missile defence system as a deterrent to nuclear-armed North Korea. Beijing says the system’s radar can penetrate far into its territory.
Lotte has been among the hardest hit companies after it handed over land in southern South Korea so the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system could be installed there.
Seoul deployed the four more THAAD launchers on Thursday, several days after Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test.
Lotte Shopping shares were up 0.7 percent in the wider market that was up 0.8 percent as of 0019 GMT.
Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Stephen Coates