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Sainsbury sizing up China for entry

Supermarket giant looks east for growth

UK grocer J Sainsbury is considering entering the Chinese market, The Times has reported.

In a management shakeup, the supermarket chain has shifted its finance chief, Darren Shapland, to the position of group development director. One of his key remits is to explore international growth options for the company. The paper said that consultants have already been asked to explore the Chinese market.

If the plan materialises, the China venture would be the supermarket's first foray oversees since 2004 when it sold its American business, Shaw's. Sainsbury has been firmly focused on the UK, where it has a 16% market share. In contrast to rival Tesco has been on a store-opening spree overseas and has also begun diversifying into non-food areas.

Sainsbury's chairman David Tyler has said the company may consider future ideas, including outside the UK, as part of its strategic brief, but in the short term, the grocer remains "absolutely focused" on the UK.

"We do not see international expansion as part of our short-term plans, but given the extraordinary growth in China, we think it wise to assess if there will be an opportunity for us in the future," a Sainsbury spokesman has been quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.