Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Japan's FamilyMart seeks growth in Vietnam

TOKYO, April 22 (Reuters) - Japan's third-largest convenience store chain, FamilyMart Co Ltd (8028.T), said it plans to open its first store in Vietnam, targeting growth in Southeast Asia as it faces weak prospects in its mature home market.

It will be the first major Japanese convenience store chain to enter Vietnam, as FamilyMart and rivals like Seven-Eleven look overseas amid a gloomy outlook in Japan due to an ageing population and a saturated market with over 40,000 stores.

FamilyMart said on Wednesday it plans to set up a joint venture with Vietnamese distribution company Phu Thai and open a store in Ho Chi Minh City by the end of this year.

The company did not give a target for store numbers but said the pace of openings would likely be similar to what it did in South Korea and elsewhere, which would be around 300 stores in five years.

"Vietnam's population is young, and we see potential in its consumer demand," said FamilyMart spokesman Takashi Shinno.

FamilyMart has been expanding aggressively in Asia, and it has about 4,200 stores in South Korea and 2,300 in Taiwan.

It plans to add 667 stores overseas in the year to February 2010, bringing its total stores abroad to 7,914 and topping the number of stores it has Japan.

Industry leader Seven-Eleven, a unit of Seven & I Holdings (3382.T), and No. 2 Lawson Inc (2651.T) have also been opening more stores in Asian markets, mainly China.

(Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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