Chain to speed up expansion in eastern China by acquiring another retailer Hutchison Whampoa's supermarket chain, ParknShop, is seeking to acquire a retailing chain in eastern China to accelerate its expansion in the mammoth market. The hunt for an acquisition target is part of a two-pronged strategy to raise its presence in the Yangtze River Delta and southern China, according to Iwan Evans, chief executive of the food, electronics and general merchandise division of the group's retailing flagship AS Watson. With a portfolio of 32 stores on the mainland, ParknShop planned to add 12 to 15 stores in each of the next five years, Mr Evans told the South China Morning Post. 'ParknShop is aggressively expanding,' he said. 'China is a fantastic market, a market which takes a long time to understand,' he added. ParknShop opened a store in Nanjing last Thursday, the first in the booming Yangtze River Delta, he said. Without elaborating on the acquisition target, Mr Evans said acquiring an existing operator would complement the group's logistics and supply chain management. ParknShop is gearing up to compete ferociously in the Yangtze delta region against the growing dominance of red-chip China Resources Enterprise's Suguo and Vanguard supermarket chains. In yet another ambitious move, ParknShop will seek government approval to open wholly owned superstores in Shanghai after learning from its setbacks in the late 1990s. The firm would duplicate the format that succeeded in southern China in eastern and northern mainland cities by opening stores with more than 100,000 square feet, Mr Evans said. 'We have No1 market share in southern China, where we came from nowhere,' he said. 'And our mainland business is profitable.' A plan of opening five superstores in southern China at a total cost of 250 million yuan is in the pipeline, with a 100,000 sq ft ParknShop superstore due to open in Guangzhou next month. ParknShop is among the foreign retail giants drawn to the mainland's 1.3 billion consumer base, with Wal-Mart of the United States and Carrefour of France setting the pace to add new stores. On its home turf, ParknShop is attempting to enlarge its market share through the launch of a middle- to high-range supermarket chain, Taste, last Friday. The chain would be expanded to 13 stores, Mr Evans said. He said the first Taste store on the mainland would open in Shanghai next year.