Wal-Mart breaking down wall in China

Co. will acquire 100 supercenters from Taiwanese firm

Hollywood’s biggest retail outlet, Wal-Mart, is set to invest $1 billion in a deal that would make the U.S. retail juggernaut China’s biggest network of hypermarkets, reports say.

Wal-Mart Stores has agreed to acquire 100 supercenter stores from Taiwanese firm Trust-Mart, according to media reports. The Trust-Mart stores generated sales of $1.42 billion in 2005, figures from Euromart show.

It’s the latest sign of international firms turning their sights on China in the hope of profiting from its fast-growing economy.

If approved by Chinese regulators, the deal to buy Trust-Mart would push Wal-Mart past France’s Carrefour for the most supercenters in China.

Wal-Mart is a major outlet for Hollywood products — some 39% of all Disney-produced DVDs have been checked through a Wal-Mart cash register.

The retailer opened in China in 1996 and has a network of 66 stores in China but has long said it wants its China operations to be as big as its business in the U.S. within 20 years. In March, Wal-Mart announced plans to hire an additional 150,000 workers in the country.

Trust-Mart employs more than 30,000 people at its hypermarkets in more than 20 provinces across China, and says it offers nearly 20,000 different products in their stores.

It’s not always been smooth sailing for Wal-Mart in China — in recent months, the state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions has organized workers at all of Wal-Mart’s China stores.

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