Wal-Mart may be the world's largest company, but they are losing ground in Europe.

The US retail behemoth, which owns Asda in the UK, expanded by 6.7 per cent outside of its own country during 2001.

This compares unfavourably with its European rivals.

Statistics show that European multiples Tesco, Ahold, Carrefour and Rewe saw increases of between 25 and 31 per cent.

Analysts say that the Europeans are showing stronger growth because their domestic markets have reached saturation.

However the opposite is true for Wal-Mart which has found strict building regulations in the UK and Germany problematic.