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Chinese auction site more than doubled its transactions last year to 43.3 billion yuan (US$5.93 billion), which was more than Carrefour SA's revenue in the nation.


A growing Web population and the increasing buying power of netizens boosted trading volume on Taobao, mostly consumer-to-consumer deals, by 156 percent, a growth rate that was higher than the overall jump of 90.4 percent in China's online shopping, the firm said in a statement.


By contrast, Carrefour, Europe's biggest retailer, generated 24.8 billion yuan of sales in China last year, the statement said, citing figures from the Ministry of Commerce.


Carrefour is the most successful overseas retailer in China so far by sales. Last year's sales figure for Wal-Mart in China hit 15 billion yuan.


The surging volume came as users at Taobao grew 76.7 percent last year to 53 million, while their average spending jumped 45 percent to 817 yuan last year. The most popular merchandise were clothes, mobile phone, cosmetics and other daily necessities.


Taobao, based in Hangzhou in eastern Zhejiang Province, has a more than 70 percent market share in online shopping, according to a joint survey by Taobao and iResearch, a Shanghai-based IT consulting firm.


However, the company, a subsidiary of China's largest e-commerce portal Corp, hasn't turned profitable yet as it doesn't impose any fee on individual sellers and buyers, a strategy that helped it beat eBay Inc in China. eBay was forced to hand over control of its Chinese auction site to a local partner in December 2006.


Currently, Taobao focuses on an online platform eligible only to major domestic and overseas consumer product makers and retailers to sell directly to Chinese buyers. The firm will charge five percent of the transaction value.


(Shanghai Daily January 23, 2008)


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