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Wumart raising cash for stores
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Wumart Stores Inc, Beijing's largest supermarket chain, yesterday announced that it would cumulatively raise about HK$1.65 billion (or around $200 million) from strategic investors, including a TPG-managed fund, and use the money to open new stores and make acquisitions.

According to the company's stock exchange filing yesterday, TPG Asia V LP will buy HK$930 million of Wumart's Hong Kong-listed stock and a unit of Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital LP will buy HK$170 million of shares. These strategic investors' shares would account for 10.9 percent of the company's total shareholding equity.

Hony is part of Legend Holdings Ltd, parent of PC maker Lenovo Group Ltd. TPG Asia V LP had invested in Legend Holdings Ltd in 2005.

The price of the deal was set at HK$10.5 per share. The Wumart stock rose 4.4 percent to HK$11.96 yesterday. Wumart's shares in Hong Kong have more than doubled this year, compared with a 42 percent gain of the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Hony and Legend also agreed to pay 485 million yuan for unlisted domestic Wumart shares, the statement said. Wumart plans to seek a listing in Shanghai or Shenzhen within three years, it said.

"It's natural to raise money from the market where the business is operated. The domestic stock market is getting more mature now and we are seeking chances to list on the A shares market," Wu Jianzhong, chairman of Wumart Stores, said at a press conference in Beijing yesterday.

"We plan to copy the company's successful operating model in Beijing to more cities and regions. The growing competition in this industry requires us to get the benefits of scale," Wu said.

"The company will step up expansion of its retail network through organic growth and acquisitions while implementing its regional development strategy," Wu added.

Founded in 1994, Wumart now had about 424 stores in Beijing, Tianjin and Zhejiang. It had a nearly 33 percent market share in Beijing and plans to open at least 10 hypermarkets, 40 convenience stores and mini-marts in the country this year.

(China Daily August 13, 2009)

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