UK supermarket group Tesco is reported to be in talks to buy a stake in a Chinese retail chain in a bid to break into what is potentially one of the world's biggest consumer markets.

Tesco, which has long been expected to enter the Chinese market, is seeking to buy a 50% stake in Tsing Hsin International, which owns 25 hypermarkets in China, for around US$200m, reported the Financial Times.

The negotiations are believed to have been taking place for some time but are now at an advanced stage, the newspaper reported, citing sources close to the situation.

Tsing Hsin operates stores under the Hymall and Le Gou banners, and has ten stores in Shanghai.

Several other foreign retailers, such as US-based Wal-Mart, France's Carrefour and Germany's Metro, already have operations in China.