February 20, 2012, 10:38 AM

Wal-Mart raises its stake in a Chinese e-retailer

The investment will give Wal-Mart a 51% interest in Yihaodian.

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will increase its ownership stake in Chinese e-retail site Yihaodian to 51%, the retailer says. The Chinese government needs to approve the deal, and Wal-Mart did not say how much the stake will cost. 

Wal-Mart first invested in Yihaodian in May 2011, but did not disclose how much of a stake it had bought at that time. Wal-Mart has operated retail stores in China since 1996. It currently operates 370 stores in 140 cities.

Wal-Mart says its additional investment demonstrates the retailer’s commitment to growing e-commerce in China. “Our further investment in Yihaoidan demonstrates that we are committed to investing in China in a key growth industry and developing all that goes with it: logistics, infrastructure, innovative talent and new technologies that will help China meet its development goals,” says Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Global eCommerce.

Yihaodian launched in 2008 and today carries more than 180,000 products, Wal-Mart says. Among its product categories are consumer electronics, apparel and groceries. It has 5,400 employees, up from about 2,000 when Wal-Mart made its initial investment.

Yihaodian operates distribution centers in five cities and focuses on same-day and next-day delivery of everyday goods, Wal-Mart says. Yihoadian’s co-founder and chairman Gang Yu says Wal-Mart’s expertise in logistics will help Yihaodian serve customers better. “Wal-Mart not only brings us nearly 50 years of retailing experience, but also innovative technology and e-commerce solutions that will help us better meet our customers’ needs,” he says. “Their excellence in supply chain will enable us to improve our customer experience and operational efficiency.”

China is the fastest-growing e-commerce market in the Asia-Pacific region and is soon expected to be the largest in Asia-Pacific, according to Forrester Research Inc., which projects online sales there will top $159.4 billion in 2015.

Wal-Mart is No. 6 in Internet Retailer's Top 500 Guide.

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