Second only to the size of Sir Terry Leahy's pay packet, Wal-Mart's UK ambitions rate highly in the media's interest in UK Grocery plc. And this week, after a couple of barren years, the fertile shoots of a new crop of rumours surfaced ­ to the delight of voracious, wretched hacks. The tabloids, not to mention fickle Sunday broadsheets who blow hot and cold on supermarkets yet go dewy-eyed at mere mention of W-M, are pursuing the line that the Arkansas discounter is "up to something." Predictably, amid the relentless propaganda war, Wal-Mart weary competitors are rubbishing the reports as stunts by cynical retail spin doctors. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to reflect on whether the Bentonville gang is about to go for another stake on this side of the pond given its enthusiasm about Asda's recent growth. Vibes we picked up in America's midwest this week suggested that Wal-Mart has "something up its sleeve" as far as Europe is concerned. But then, given the climate, one would be surprised if it hadn't. However, Asda deputy md Richard Baker told the Food and Drink Expo seminar that there would not be a shortage of funds, should British management highlight an opportunity. So is there substance to the tales? Predictably, neither the US group, nor its Leeds offshoot, is confirming or denying anything. Yet rumours persist that W-M may either buy a UK non-food chain or bid for Safeway, while others suggest it will launch a "new concept" into Britain and thus reinforce its bid to leapfrog Sainsbury. The notion that W-M is set to strengthen its offer by buying a non-foods operator has been around for some time. But then, so has the Safeway story. A smaller, aggressive, neighbourhood operator alongside the giants of the Wal-Mart family might cause a stir here. But that, alone, would probably not be enough to take Asda above Sainsbury. Having said all that, UK Grocery plc could be in for an interesting summer. {{OPINION }}