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    Wal-Mart to Close 20 Japan Units, Cut Jobs

    The global giant's Japan unit may be struggling, but it said plans are still on for expansion after this reduction.

    Wal-Mart seems to be faring well during the U.S. economy's current downturn, but Japan could be another story. The retail giant's Japan unit Seiyu Ltd said it would close about 20 unprofitable stores and cut 6 percent of its workforce as it struggles to gain footing in the world's second largest economy.

    The Japan unit plans to close the stores by mid-2009 and renovate about 100 large stores over the next two years, according to a press release. Seiyu said it would launch an early retirement plan likely to attract about 350 employees, or about 6 percent of its total full-time workforce.

    Seiyu became a fully owned subsidiary of Wal-Mart earlier this year. The Japanese unit, which has yet to turn a net profit on an annual basis, will look to open stores in new regions and consider acquisitions for expansion. Targets for expansion may include supermarket chains with a nationwide network, according to Seiyu svp Ryo Kanayama. "Our stores are concentrated in the Tokyo metropolitan area. We would look at areas outside that area," he said at a media briefing.

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