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Lotte eyes Beijing retailer
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Lotte Shopping Co, South Korea's largest retailer, said it plans to acquire a stake in a discount store operator in China in order to expand in the country's rapidly growing retail sector.


The Seoul-based firm agreed to pay 57.6 million euros for a 49 percent stake in CTA Makro, according to a Bloomberg report.


CTA Makro, a joint venture between China Trade Association Property Corp Ltd and Dutch-based SHV Holdings NV, now operates five discount stores in Beijing and two in Tianjin. It plans to open another outlet in the capital next year.


The purchase must still receive approval from the authorities, Lotte said in a filing yesterday. Lotte hopes to buy the remaining stake of the discount-store chain, should it be chosen as the favored bidder.


An anonymous official from Lotte Yintai (Shanghai) Investment Co Ltd's marketing department confirmed the report, but he declined to reveal further details.


Earlier reports from indicated Lotte's ambitious plan was to open at least 20 outlets in China in the coming decade.


Starting its China expansion from Beijing, the South Korean firm will then seek opportunities in Shanghai, Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces.


Its Beijing store, located in Wangfujing, the capital's prime commercial area, is scheduled to open next May. The store, positioned as a high-end shopping center, covering an area of 83,600 sq m, already held a supplier meeting in September.


Lotte is preparing to open new outlets through land purchases in China. It remains open to buying another existing operator, the company told Bloomberg.


Lotte, the retail arm of South Korea's fifth-biggest family-run industrial group and a Fortune 500 firm, is focused on expanding its presence in China, where the economy is growing twice as fast as South Korea's.


Lotte formed a 50-50 joint venture with China Yintai Group, a local conglomerate of property, retail and resources.


It controls more than 40 percent of South Korea's department-store market and 14 percent of the discount-store sector.


(China Daily December 18, 2007)

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