Chinese retailer Wumart is reportedly planning to open four or five hypermarkets before the end of the year, with an investment of CNY100m (US$12.1m).

The company, which plans to open 156 new stores in 2004, denied it was planning to expand into the department store business, saying supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores are still its main focus, reported Dow Jones International News.

Wumart raised HK$256m (US$32.8m) through a share placement in June, in order to finance expansion and possible acquisitions.

"We will stick to our focus on the regional business, Beijing is our core development area," chairman and president Zhang Wen-zhong was quoted by Dow Jones News as saying.