French retailer Carrefour today (17 September) denied reports that it is in talks to buy stores in China from the Shanghai Bailian Group.

Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post reported that the retailer was seeking acquisitions to slow Wal-Mart’s expansion into the north of the country. A person close to the company called it “a defensive move”, the paper reported.

However, a Carrefour spokesman told just-food that it had had “no contact at all” with Bailian. He admitted however that while acquisitions “are not the principle way for our development in China, we will consider opportunities as they come up”.

Carrefour, with 101 stores in China, has a bigger presence than Wal-Mart but the US giant is trying to catch up after a slower start. Bailian owns 30% of the leading supermarket chain Lianhua Supermarket Holdings and also owns Shanghai Hualian Supermarket.