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Wal-Mart Raises Stake to 51% in Chinese Website Yihaodian

Wal-Mart Raises Stake to 51% in Chinese Website Yihaodian

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, became a majority shareholder in Yihaodian by raising its stake in the Chinese online supermarket to tap rising consumer wealth and help the company offer more products.

Wal-Mart agreed to increase its holding in the closely held Shanghai-based company to about 51 percent, it said in an e-mailed statement today without disclosing terms. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company bought an unspecified minority stake in Yihaodian last year.

The online supermarket will use the funds to help expand its offerings and open more warehouses and delivery stations after more than tripling sales last year, Yihaodian President Yu Gang said today in a phone interview. The company operates logistics centers in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Chengdu, along with delivery stations in 34 cities across China, according to today’s statement.

“We hope to maintain fast growth this year,” Yu said, declining to elaborate on Wal-Mart’s new investment. “We will continue to look at expanding product range.” Yu said in July the company may choose the U.S. for an initial public offering.

Yihaodian offers more than 180,000 items from Nokia Oyj cell phones to Procter & Gamble Co.’s Pampers diapers and Kewpie Corp. mayonnaise. Sales jumped to 2.72 billion yuan ($432 million) last year, compared with 805 million yuan in 2010, Yu said today.

Wal-Mart’s stake expansion is subject Chinese government regulatory approval, it said in the statement.

“We are committed to investing in China in a key growth industry and developing all that goes with it,” Neil Ashe, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Global e-Commerce, said in the statement.