Wal-Mart has told just-food that it has plans to expand rapidly in China, by opening of a number of new outlets and increasing its workforce fivefold.

Although the company declined to give details of how many stores would be added to its Chinese portfolio in the long-term, spokesperson Bill Wertz told just-food: "We plan to open as many as 20 new stores this year and many more in coming years. Based on this, we have predicted the employment of as many as 150,000 additional people in the next five years."

The company's international businesses are growing at a faster rate than US operations. In 2005, the international business saw net sales and operating income rise 11.4%, compared to 9.4% for sales and 8.2% for operating income at the US division.

The world's largest retailer said only last week that it intends to focus on future international growth, with the announcement that it has acquired Central American Retail Holding Co, a Latin American retail chain.

The company currently has 56 stores and 30,000 employees in China.