B&Q looks to increase presence in China

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The Independent Online

Kingfisher is considering almost doubling the size of its DIY chain in China with the acquisition of a rival US retailer.

Kingfisher is considering almost doubling the size of its DIY chain in China with the acquisition of a rival US retailer.

Speculation mounted yesterday that the owner of B&Q was stalking the US group PriceSmart, which operates about 10 outlets in China, in an attempt to build a bigger estate in the world's most populous nation.

B&Q owns 15 stores in China and its largestopened in Beijing last year. The government's abandonment of Communist housing principles and the embracing of private ownership has sparked a boom in the country's nascent home improvement market, helping B&Q's Chinese arm to report its first profit earlier this year.

Although PriceSmart operates hypermarkets rather than DIY stores, buying its sites could catapult B&Q to an unassailable position just as foreign interest in China is growing. Under the agreement struck to enter the World Trade Organisation, the country will lift its restrictions on foreign chain retail operations by the end of the year. In June, the world's biggest DIY retailer, Home Depot, revealed it was planning an aggressive push into China.

PriceSmart, run by a Chinese licensee, has struggled operationally and may look to sell its stores, it emerged yesterday. "We want to expand, and if they wish to sell, we'd think about doing it that way," a spokeswoman for B&Q said.

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