China's Sun Art says 9-month profit surges 26 pct
* Net profit rose to 2.18 billion yuan
* Revenue up 11.7 pct
* Aims to launch an e-commerce platform in Q4
* Sun Art shares up 5 pct this year, outpacing rival CRE
HONG KONG, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Sun Art Retail Group Ltd , China's largest hypermarket chain by market capitalisation, said on Thursday net profit for the first three quarters rose 26.4 percent from a year earlier with an expanding store network helping it shrug off an economic slowdown.
Net profit rose to 2.18 billion yuan ($357.80 million) for the nine months ended in September, with revenue rising 11.7 percent year-on-year to 65.69 billion yuan, the company said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.
For the third quarter, Sun Art's net profit rose about 70 percent to 604 million yuan compared to a year ago and is up 17 percent from the second quarter this year, according to a Reuters calculation.
Sun Art, which aims to launch an online platform in the fourth quarter, has pushed into e-commerce as competition in the hypermarket sector heats up. A tie-up announced last month between the world's No.3 retailer, Tesco, and China Resources Enterprise, potentially poses a challenge to Sun Art's lead.
China Resources Enterprise on Thursday said its third-quarter net profit fell 19.2 percent year-on-year, hurt by weaker retail demand.
Sun Art, a joint venture between Taiwan conglomerate Ruentex Group and privately held French retailer Groupe Auchan SA , also competes with Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's biggest retailer that bought control of Chinese online store Yihaodian last year.
Joining the competition, Wumart Stores Inc in October agreed to buy the bulk of the retail stores of CP Lotus on the mainland.
In China, the hypermarket industry is forecast to grow to 863.8 billion yuan ($142 billion) by 2015, from an estimated 659.6 billion yuan in 2013, according to research firm Euromonitor.
Shares of Sun Art climbed 5 percent this year, outpacing a 3.4 percent slide in rival China Resources Enterprise and a 0.03 percent fall in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.