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Wal-Mart to open three new stores
( 2003-12-02 00:16) (China Daily)

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is set to open three huge outlets in Shanghai.

Its joint venture with CITIC Trust & Invest Co Ltd was officially approved by the Ministry of Commerce last month, paving the way for its expansion in China's east.

Starting from 1996, Wal-Mart has opened 31 stores in 15 cities around the nation, employing over 16,000 people, but it is yet to make a foray into eastern China.

The company plans to get the three stores up and running with a total investment of US$18 million and registered capital of US$7.2 million.

At the beginning of the year, the Shanghai Chain Enterprise Association held a hearing and approved the location of a Wal-Mart supercentre at Wujiaochang, a busy commercial area in Shanghai's west.

It will be in a 100,000 square metre shopping mall. But existing structures on the site are still standing and need to be demolished before work can begin.

"So it will take Wal-Mart two or three years to open its store there,'' said Shao Weinan, a local official.

Another location, at Laoximen in the city's downtown area, is already under construction. It is estimated that Wal-Mart will open its first outlet in Shanghai at the location next year.

The rumoured third area for Wal-Mart is said to be in Pudong.

Wal-Mart's Chinese headquarters, based in Shenzhen, refused to reveal any details about its Shanghai move.

The city, home to several top Chinese retailers, has the most mature retail market in the nation. Besides local players like Lianhua and Hualian, international retail giants such as Carrefour, Metro and Lotus have set up a number of large markets in the city.

An unidentified official with the Shanghai Chain Enterprise Association said there is very limited space still available for such stores downtown. In fact, the area is reaching a critical level.

"But in suburban areas, there is still plenty of space for their business,'' he told China Daily.

To Shanghai, Wal-Mart means not only another retailer, but also a big buyer. Last year, it opened its global sourcing office in Shanghai. Last year, Wal-Mart's procurement volume in China reached US$12 billion and is expected to reach US$15 billion this year, according to its website.

During a visit to China last month, Lee Scott, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, said it will continue to increase its investment and procurement volumes in China.

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