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The Indian joint venture of Wal-Mart Stores Inc has suspended its chief financial officer and other employees as it investigates alleged violations of US anti-bribery laws, a development that could hamper India's efforts to open its domestic supermarket sector to foreign investment.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said last week it has opened internal inquiries or investigations into bribery allegations in Brazil, China and India, which follows an earlier probe in Mexico.
"The suspension is a routine global practice followed in such investigations," an official at the Indian unit said, declining to be named. "We cannot carry out a fair investigation when the people we are investigating are in office. What we must not forget is they are innocent until proven guilty," the person said.
Separately, a spokeswoman for the joint venture confirmed the suspensions and said the venture was "committed to conducting a complete and thorough investigation." Wal-Mart's partner in the venture is Bharti Enterprises.
Indian authorities are also investigating claims that Wal-Mart violated foreign exchange rules when it invested USD 100 million in a domestic unit owned by its wholesale joint-venture partner.
Indian opposition parties and allies within the Congress party-led coalition government in New Delhi are opposed to allowing global giants like Wal-Mart into the retail sector, saying to do so would drive small traders out of business.
After several delays, the government in September finally allowed foreign direct investment in the sector to revive stalled reforms and help halt a slide in economic growth.
On Thursday, when the Indian parliament opened for its winter session, opposition politicians demanded a debate and vote on the policy decision and have threatened to halt parliamentary proceedings.
Bharti Airtel stock price
On November 27, 2015, Bharti Airtel closed at Rs 341.65, down Rs 0.35, or 0.1 percent. The 52-week high of the share was Rs 452.45 and the 52-week low was Rs 315.65.
The company's trailing 12-month (TTM) EPS was at Rs 25.82 per share as per the quarter ended September 2015. The stock's price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio was 13.23. The latest book value of the company is Rs 195.80 per share. At current value, the price-to-book value of the company is 1.74.
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