International News - Carrefour top foreigner in Chinese league table

Carrefour has entered the retail top five in China, but the growing market remains dominated by local players.

For the first time, China's Ministry of Commerce has released a list of the country's top 30 retailers, painting a true picture of the retail landscape in the country.

The number one retailer was Shanghai Bailian Group, formed last April when four retailers merged, with sales of Yn48.52 billion (£3.08 billion). The next two were Dalian Dashang Group, with sales of Yn18.18 billion (£1.15 billion), and Beijing Gome, with Yn17.79 billion (£1.13 billion).

Carrefour, in fifth place, is the leading overseas retailer, with sales of Yn13.44 billion (£851.8 million). Wal-Mart is 16th, with Yn5.85 billion (£370.8 million). Metro is 18th, with sales of Yn5.62 billion (£356.2 million).

Three other foreign retailers also made the list - China Resources Vanguard, Suguo and Haoyouduo. The six non-Chinese retailers account for 18.3 per cent of the Yn270.40 billion (£17.16 billion) total sales of the top 30.

M+M Planet Retail analyst Robert Gregory said: 'At the end of this year all the restrictions on foreign ownership, and where retailers can build stores are expected to be lifted. In 2005, you are going to see aggressive expansion from the foreign players, which will move up the list. New entrants will also come in.'

Tesco has been monitoring China as a potential new market for the past few years. Recent Chinese media reports suggested that it is to acquire a 50 per cent stake in Hymall, a 25-store Chinese subsidiary of Taiwan-based Ting Hsin.

Tesco refused to comment.