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The Globe and Mail

Wal-Mart to buy stake in China's Yihaodian

A Wal-Mart sign is seen in Miami, Florida in this May 18, 2010 file photograph.


Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to buy a minority stake in Chinese e-commerce company Yihaodian, giving the world's largest retailer a stronger foothold online and in the fast-growing China retail market.

Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close within 60 days, Wal-Mart said Friday.

The Yihaodian investment fits into two goals for Wal-Mart - expanding online and internationally. Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke has stressed the company's focus on those areas as its U.S. sales at stores open at least a year have fallen for seven consecutive quarters.

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Yihaodian offers more than 75,000 items, including groceries, consumer electronics and apparel. The company has operations in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

The company, launched in July 2008 by Chairman Gang Yu and CEO Junling Liu, offers next-day delivery at competitive prices, Wal-Mart said.

China's online sales are projected to match U.S. online sales in the next few years, Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman, Wal-Mart Stores and CEO of Wal-Mart Global eCommerce and Global Sourcing, said in a statement.

U.S. online retail spending jumped 10 per cent to $142.5-billion in 2010, according to comScore Inc.

Tapping into China's online market is a key step as Wal-Mart tries to capture more sales wherever people want to buy, whether online, via mobile phones or in stores.

In the United States, Wal-Mart now offers shoppers the option of selecting items online and picking them up at its stores. It is also testing home delivery of groceries ordered online in San Jose, California, and has agreed to buy social media company Kosmix to help grow its online and smart phone capabilities.

Wal-Mart and others invested in China's top online seller of consumer electronics and communications products, 360buy, in late 2010.

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Wal-Mart entered China in August 1996. It now has 333 stores there, including 104 stores operated by Trust-Mart. Wal-Mart bought a 35 per cent stake in Trust-Mart in 2007.

Wal-Mart's biggest growth retail opportunity remains the United States, where it is opening more stores, followed by the potential to expand in China, Duke said last month.

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