Walmart is targeting a move into Africa with a multibillion-dollar offer for Johannesburg-based retailer Massmart.

Asda chairman Andy Bond headed the negotiations for Walmart as the world’s largest retailer bid around $4.2bn for Massmart. The deal would mark Walmart’s largest purchase since buying Asda for £6.7bn in 1999.

Massmart chief executive Grant Pattison said the company was approached by Walmart last Friday. Its board met over the weekend to discuss the proposal, but a deal is likely to take several months to be completed.

Bond told the Financial Times Massmart had “an extremely strong general merchandise business, a very good wholesale business and an emerging food retail business”.

Walmart’s planned move into Africa underlines the company’s emphasis on international growth, with sales in its US heartland having stalled for several consecutive quarters.

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