Wal-Mart to grow by more than 30 pct annually in China

A view of the Wal-Mart store in Broomfield, Colorado June 7, 2007. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

BEIJING (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N, the world's biggest retailer, said it will keep expanding in China at more than 30 percent annually, as it won government approval to open its 100th store in the fast-growing consumer market.

The U.S. retail giant currently has 94 stores open in China, with others in preparation, and has opened 24 this year alone, Terrence Cullen, vice-president of development for Wal-Mart in China, said at a news conference on Monday.

“We intend to continue our aggressive, organic growth in China,” he said.

Wal-Mart has invested 1.7 billion yuan ($230 million) in China since opening its first store in 1996, and buys around $18 billion of goods a year from mainland factories, importing over 6,600 products from the U.S. for sale in its mainland retail network.

Wal-Mart’s growing prominence has also brought it attention from China’s government-run trade union.

Last year, the All China Federation of Trade Unions forced the retailer to accept official union organization, overcoming the company’s long-standing reluctance to open doors to them.

Wal-Mart’s international sales growth far outstrips domestic sales and overseas sales now account for almost a quarter of total sales.

But the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company’s experience in another growth market, India, has met problems.

In India, where modern retail, with its hypermarkets and one-stop shopping, has only a small share of a splintered $350 billion industry, Wal-Mart sparked political concerns and protests by traders and shopkeepers even before opening its first cash-and-carry store.