US retail giant Wal-Mart is reported to have commenced construction of its second store in Beijing, and has scheduled an opening date for the second half of 2004.

The company also has plans for a third store to be located in northwest Beijing, a company official told AFX-Asia.

Wal-Mart entered China in 1996 and has since opened 33 stores. It opened its first store in the capital last July.

Last year Wal-Mart was ranked sixteenth in China’s retail market in terms of sales, according to the country’s commerce ministry. French retail giant Carrefour was ranked fifth, while Germany’s Metro ranked eighteenth through its local joint venture.