German-based retailer giant Metro Group will invest 80 million euros ($112.3 million) in China to open four more stores there this year, Tianle Cai, chief executive of Metro China, announced on Thursday.

The stores will be opened in second and third line southern cities, and Metro believer they will have promising markets, Cai said in an interview, adding that the stores will be located in Kunshan and Changshu from Suzhou, Cixi from Ningbo and Hangzhou.

Although the economic blizzard smote the global market, Metro Cash and Carry (MCC) has seen growing profits in China. In 2008, the sales generated in 38 Chinese stores market totaled 1.052 billion euros ($1.48 billion), 15% up from a year earlier.

The global stores of Metro Group grew to 655 last year, and oversea sales have accounted 83% of the total sales of MCC.

Among the global emerging markets, Eastern Europe and Asia in particular offer great growth potential which the company plans to systematically tap into.

Metro,the world's fourth-largest retailer, entered Chinese market in 1995 by establishing the joint venture METRO Jinjiang Cash & Carry Co., Ltd with the Chinese partner Jinjiang Group. A year later, the first Metro wholesale store was opened in Shanghai, bringing a brand-new business concept into China.

The company has set its foot already in 31 Chinese cities with 38 outlets in operation. With over 8,200 full-time employees, the wholesaler is serving more than 3 million professional customers across the country.

But I think we eventually have to aim for about 100 stores to give us the presence we want, Frans Muller, MCC chief executive and a member of the Metro Group board said in early April this year.

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, operates 99 supercentres in China, although MCC sees itself less in competition with the US group than with its subsidiary Sam's Club. The wholesale club for retail clients has three units in China.

MCC is an international market leader in the sector of self-service wholesale. The assortment and services offered by MCC are geared to meeting the specific needs of professional customers. At 655 stores in 29 countries the company offers a broad selection of goods at wholesale prices to customers such as hotel and restaurant operators and small to medium-sized retailers.

(1 euro = $ 1.4035 )