Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, has bought 35% of a 101-store hypermarket chain in China, in a dramatic move to better reach the nation's increasingly affluent customers.

Wal-Mart did not disclose how much it paid for the stake in the Taiwan-owned Trust-Mart chain. It said that, subject to 'certain conditions', it would acquire ownership control in the future.

Wal-Mart vice chairman Michael Duke said the investment was 'an important step in bringing additional scale to our China retail business'.

French retailer Carrefour said late last year it decided not to bid for Trust-Mart after deciding that organic growth would be a more suitable strategy in China.

Wal-Mart currently operates 75 stores in China, employing 37,000 people, while Carrefour has 90 hypermarkets. Trust-Mart, which has a staff of more than 31,000 in China, will  continue to operate under the Trust-Mart banner.