The world's largest retailer, US-based Wal-Mart Inc, was celebrating on Wednesday after being granted planning permission for a new global purchasing centre in southern China.

Construction of the new centre in Shenzhen City is expected to start shortly, with the Wal-Mart China Limited Company saying that by 2003, procurement for its annual sales of $190 billion will be controlled by the centre and its purchasing network.

In the past five years, Wal-Mart has set up six chain stores in Shenzhen, a city regarded as being a communications hub.

With a 20 per cent annual increase in its purchasing volume, Wal-Mart bought commodities from China valued at around $10 billion last year - 95 per cent of which was made in Shenzhen.