Wumart Stores, Beijing's largest supermarket chain, said half-year profit jumped 44 per cent, helped by higher same-store sales and fast expansion. Wumart said net profit rose to 108.9 million yuan for the six months ending June 30 from 75.5 million yuan a year ago. Turnover rose 43.5 per cent to 2.6 billion yuan from 1.8 billion yuan, mainly driven by an increase in the number of stores and 9.17 per cent same-store sales growth. Gross margin, however, fell 0.3 percentage point, to 18.3 per cent. Sales remained strong last month, rising by 40 per cent year on year with same-store sales up 8 per cent, Wumart finance director Xu Ying said. Wumart has been opening stores and buying rivals to tap the country's growing consumer demand. China's retail sales jumped 13.3 per cent in the first half to 3.64 trillion yuan. The growing market is also prompting expansion by foreign retailers including Wal-Mart from the United States and Carrefour from France. Wumart, which runs 46 superstores, 221 mini-stores including convenience stores and 257 franchised stores on the mainland, said it expected the 370 million yuan acquisition of a 68 per cent stake in Beijing MerryMart Chain Stores Development to be completed next month. MerryMart, Beijing's No4 supermarket chain by sales, operates 23 supermarkets and recorded a full-year net profit of 33.46 million yuan last year on 1.65 billion yuan sales. Wumart said its market share in Beijing would be between 18 per cent and 19 per cent after the purchase. It did not give its current market share. Wumart also acquired 27.7 per cent of Shanghai-listed retailer Yichuan Xinhua Department Store in April for 176.7 million yuan to expand into northwestern China. Xinhua operates four department stores and 23 supermarkets in Yichuan, capital of Ningxia province. Ms Xu said Xinhua's board on Wednesday approved the issuing of two shares for every 10 shares held by its stockowners as reform compensation. Wumart had agreed to buy the new shares to be issued to three key shareholders under the reform, she said. Wumart's stake in Xinhua would increase to 29 per cent after Xinhua's reform to make all state-owned shares tradable, she added. Wumart's capital expenditure for the current financial year would amount to 500 million yuan, mainly for the opening of stores and operations. Wumart shares yesterday fell 1.78 per cent to HK$27.50.