Wal-Mart's UK supermarket chain Asda has opened the first three of the 12 stores it acquired from the Morrisons group as part of a £30m (US$53m) refurbishment programme resulting in the creation of 250 jobs in the province, according to the Press Association.

Stores in Bangor, Coleraine and Cookstown have opened their doors to customers.

Asda's entry into the retail market in Northern Ireland follows in the footsteps of Tesco and Sainsbury's, who began trading there in the wake of the loyalist and republican ceasefires.

Asda is also refurbishing stores in Belfast, Ballyclare, Dundonald, Enniskillen, Kilkeel, Newtownards, Omagh and Strabane.

The Office of Fair Trading cleared the way for Asda to move into the Northern Ireland market in June.

The supermarket giant's head of agriculture and local sourcing, Chris Brown, reassured local farmers that Northern Ireland produce would be an important part of Asda's business, as it was under Morrisons and Safeway.