updated 4/10/2006 10:45:13 AM ET 2006-04-10T14:45:13

Swedish home furnishings retailer IKEA on Monday unveiled a new outlet in Beijing that will be its biggest in Asia _ a seven-story, $100 million facility that the company hopes will put it ahead in China's thriving but crowded market.

The new store, due to open Wednesday, will be IKEA's third in China, and the company plans to have a total of 10 outlets within five years, said Ian Duffy, president of the company's Asia-Pacific division.

The new Beijing outlet "represents a scale of investment that almost no other retail company in the world would be prepared to make," Duffy told reporters. The new store has showroom space equivalent to five football fields and is second only to IKEA's flagship outlet in its home city of Stockholm, Sweden.

IKEA is one of a growing number of companies competing to serve China's increasingly affluent urban consumers, who are in the midst of a wave of private home-buying.

Duffy said China currently accounts for only 1 percent to 2 percent of IKEA's sales worldwide but sales are expected to grow by 30-50 percent a year.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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