Retail giant Tesco is to close four of its hypermarkets in China as it grapples with what it called the “challenging” economic environment in the country.

A spokesperson for Tesco told just-food today (29 August) stores in Bengbu in Anhui province, Tieling in Liaoning province, and Taizhou and Changshu, both in the Jiangsu province, would close.

“We said in April at our annual results that we – like many other companies – were experiencing a more challenging economic environment in China and that we were taking a more cautious approach to reflect that,” the spokesperson said. “Any decision to close a store is a difficult one, but we are determined to get it right in such a strategically important market and having the right stores in the right places is key to this.”

The spokesperson added: “This decision is about ensuring Tesco is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunity in China once the economic conditions improve.”

China is among one of Tesco’s key markets in Asia. The retailer operates more than 100 outlets in the country, employing 26,000 staff.

At the firm’s annual results in April, Tesco revealed a target of opening 16 hypermarkets by February 2013.

The spokesperson said it will provide an update on its progress “in the usual way” in October, when the retailer announces its interim results.