Chief executive, chairman quit Wal-Mart's China e-commerce firm Yihaodian

A customer pushing a shopping cart exits a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. supercentre store in Beijing, China. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - The Chief Executive and Chairman of Wal-Mart Stores Inc's Chinese e-commerce company have quit "to pursue their next venture", the U.S. retailer said on Wednesday, as it aims to grow a company still far smaller than local rivals.

"Yihaodian co-founders, Chairman Gang Yu and CEO Junling Liu have announced they are leaving Yihaodian," Walmart said in a statement, adding that it is recruiting other leaders.

The U.S. company "will work to accelerate (Yihaodian's) growth ... and Walmart continues to be committed to investing in China and in e-commerce."

The world's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart plans to close some under-performing stores in China and seek to tap into the faster-growing online grocery market through its digital platform.

Wal-Mart's Asia head Scott Price told Reuters earlier this year that online retail was important to help tap China's younger generations. "What we're finding is that the Chinese customer is going online and they're going online outside of China pretty aggressively," he said.

Wal-Mart, along with France's Carrefour SA and Britain's Tesco PLC have all seen sales growth slip over the last five years, losing market share to local rivals, according to a report from consumer analytics firm Kantar Worldpanel.

But remains dwarfed in China by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Inc, let alone the many other rivals it competes with including compatriot Inc.

In 2012, Wal-Mart took control of by bumping up its stake to 51 percent, scouring for new sources of revenue outside traditional retail amid tough competition and hoping to latch onto a boom in Chinese e-commerce.

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