* Steps up expansion this year after slowed in 2009
* Plans 3 new stores in Japan
HONG KONG, March 1 (Reuters) - China’s Suning Appliance Co (002024.SZ) said it planned to open 520 stores in China this year, increasing its total number of shops by more than half in the world’s third-biggest economy.
The company will step up expansion efforts this year after plans for opening new stores last year were affected by the uncertainties in the economy in the first nine months of the year, Suning president Sun Weimin told reporters on Monday.
The Chinese electrical appliance chain store had 941 stores across China by the end of 2009.
Suning, which competes with Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N), the biggest U.S. electronics retailer, and GOME Electrical Appliances (0493.HK) for customers in China, will also open three stores in Japan, Sun said.
The company paid about $8.39 million for a controlling 27.36 percent stake in Japan’s consumer electronics retailer Laox (8202.T) last June and has an option to increase its holding to 29.33 percent. [ID:nSHA257339]
Shares of Suning have fallen 9 percent this year after surging 74 percent in 2009, lagging the Shenzhen market .SZSC which eased 1.4 percent this year but more than doubled in 2009. (Reporting by Fion Li; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)