Foreign businessmen who have retail operations in China without the approval of the State Council face uncertainty because of a nation-wide study into unauthorised retail joint ventures. Although Chinese officials said they had not decided on what actions to take after reviewing the information collected, the study is set to have a bearing on regulation of retail joint ventures and the pace of opening up the retail sector. Market observers said it was unlikely Beijing would introduce drastic measures that would deal a blow to the hundreds of foreign retailers operating without approval from the State Council. The retail business is considered a restricted sector, which foreign companies can only enter through joint ventures with the approval of the State Council. Only 18 retail joint ventures have been approved by the State Council since China announced the partial opening of the sector in 1992. The director of international co-operation at the Ministry of Internal Trade, Wang Minghong, said it was about time the ministry reviewed the situation after 15 years of open door policy. The study, which started earlier this month and encompassed major cities, would shed light on future policies, he said. Mr Wang said Beijing did not plan to delegate its power to local governments. This was despite the fact that many retail joint ventures had bypassed Beijing, seeking and being granted approval for projects by local governments. A lawyer said the problem arose because of a lack of co-ordination among government departments. Many property projects, approved during the market boom several years ago, would need to find foreign companies to lease part of the retail space, although many were able to obtain retail operating licences from the State Council. He said there was no need for undue concern as China would try to control the situation while ensuring a minimal effect on the confidence of foreign businessmen. He said Beijing would try to find solutions to give recognition to existing foreign retail participants.