South Korea’s Lotte Shopping is considering selling its supermarkets in China 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 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.
China has pressured South Korean businesses via boycotts and bans since Seoul decided last year to deploy a US-made missile defence system as a deterrent to nuclear-armed North Korea. Beijing says the system’s radar can penetrate into its territory.
Lotte has been among the hardest hit companies after it sold land to the government in South Korea for use by the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.
Seventy-four of Lotte’s 99 Mart stores in China were closed by authorities over alleged safety violations. Another 13 stores were shut down because of difficult business conditions.
Seoul deployed four more THAAD launchers on Thursday, several days after Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test.
Lotte Shopping shares rose 0.7% in early trading.