It speaks volumes for the Yanks' incredible pulling power that, 14 months on from the day they coughed up £6.7bn for Asda, the mere mention of Wal-Mart still has an orgasmic effect in newsrooms and analysts' hideaways around our land. Has there ever been a retail player which has dominated the headlines with such regularity? Trouble is, sometimes it's hard to divide fact from fiction when our imaginative media hit top gear. Take this week. A tip-off from "a usually reliable source" told a national broadsheet that Wal-Mart was planning to beef up its high street non-food interests by cheekily snapping up Boots and, with it, Halfords. Inevitably, other hacks were soon scurrying to their keyboards and eager analysts tapped out a string of enquiring transatlantic e-mails to their mates in Wall Street. Once again, the cross-pond rumour factory was on overtime. Sure, it's still the silly season, but, hey guys, it's Wal-Mart after all, and they're out to rule the world. Predictably, there were no confirmations or denials from either party. It was only after deeper thinking analysts had considered the rumour that they offered interviews with the media suggesting that the idea was probably just a silly season notion. In any case, they argued, that sort of union would bring the Competition Commission into the fray with a vengeance so it would not be worth the Americans even thinking about it. But, despite analysts pouring cold water on the media fires, smoke was still around as we went to press. But then, denials have long been taken as admissions in this business, so the two parties might just be preferring to err on the side of caution and keep stum. And, to some, Boots is still seen as a perfect fit for the Arkansas gang in its mission to consolidate its non-food interests. Whatever happens, this week's tale has kept the Yanks in a clear lead in the multiples' publicity league.Which explains why, behind those confident fronts, their competitors are privately gnashing their teeth. Yet, somehow, I suspect we ain't seen nothin' yet. Clive Beddall, Editor {{OPINION }}