Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has purchased the remaining stake it didn't own in China's Yihaodian, an online retailer.
With the move, Wal-Mart is attempting to follow consumers as they migrate to the Internet in China, a country where the retailer has struggled to adjust to buying habits and local competition.
Yihaodian, founded in 2008, sells more than 8 million products.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. previously held about 51 per cent of Yihaodian.
The company bought the remaining shares from financial services group Ping An of China and its co-founders, former Chairman Gang Yu and former CEO Junling Liu. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Wang Lu, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce in Asia, will head Yihaodian as part of his overall responsibilities.
115 new stores to be built
The Bentonville, Arkansas, retailer, which opened its first store in China nearly 20 years ago, has struggled with slow and uneven growth but it's making the market a top priority. After rapid expansion a few years ago, Wal-Mart is closing some stores and focusing on making its fleet of about 400 stores more profitable.
It still plans to build 115 more stores by 2017. But given the seismic shift among Chinese shoppers online to buying a wide range of items including groceries, Wal-Mart aims to accelerate its online business as well as link its online services to its stores.
China's e-commerce market has huge potential. By the end of 2013, the country's total online sales hit US$307 billion, eclipsing the US to become the world's largest e-commerce market, according to Forrester Research, which expects that China's online retail sales will exceed US$1 trillion by the end of 2019.
Yihaodian is a small player compared with market leaders Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. and its rival, JD. com. Wal-Mart's online business is ranked sixth in market share in China, according to Euromonitor International, a global market research firm.
Nol van Fenema