Wal-Mart, Gap to launch online stores in China: report

The world's largest retailer Wal-Mart and US clothing giant Gap are to launch online stores in China to tap the country's fast-growing e-commerce market, the Financial Times reported Monday.

Wal-Mart will use its own Internet platform to promote sales of the handful of the Sam's Club stores it currently has in China, the London-based newspaper said.

Sam's Club is a warehouse chain owned by Wal-Mart.

Eduardo Castro-Wright, head of Wal-Mart's global e-commerce business, told a meeting with investors earlier this month that the retailer was "excited about the size of the opportunity" for online sales in China, it said.

Gap, which has said it planned to open its first four stores in the country in Beijing and Shanghai this year, will launch a Chinese online sales site next month, the report said.

Online retail sales in China, which has the world's largest web population of at least 420 million, soared by 117 percent last year to 39 billion dollars, it said, citing findings by iResearch, a Beijing-based research firm.

Wal-Mart expects the country to overtake Japan and Britain over the next five years to become the world's second-largest e-commerce market after the United States, the newspaper said.

Online sales in the Asian nation are projected to be 230 billion dollars by then, against a forecast 490 billion dollars in the United States, it added.