Group buying sites in China are reaching 42 million customers according to figures released by The China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

The figure represents an increase of 125% on the previous the year’s business, with the country’s group buying industry now estimated to reach 8.7% of China’s Internet users, according to a bulletin from iChinastock.

As of June 2011, China has more than 5,000 group buying sites in operation, according to a report from Analysis International, cited by China Daily. Of that number, Groupon – which partners with web giant Tencent operating as Gaopang – and Lashou are both moving towards IPOs as China’s crowded group buying market is tipped to consolidate in 2012 with the industry’s smaller entities the most likely to suffer.

Looking at the marketplace through a survey commission by group-buying site aggregator and analytics platform Dataotuan, Gaopang is out in front with 12% of market sales, while 55tuan (9.6%) second and Lashou (9%) trailing as a surprising third. Of course, given Dataotuan’s position in the market, the statistics were controversial, particularly when the company also claimed that GaoPeng was not amongst the top 10 group buying sites based on revenue from May 2011 (in this SlideShare and below).

china group buying sales Group buying is huge in China, now reaching 42 million shoppers

The CNNIC data release comes amid speculation that the Chinese government may introduce regulation for the country’s daily deals market. At the same time, it is also working on rules for ecommerce sites in the wake of recent troubles at Alibaba, where proposed membership fee hikes sparked protests and chaos.

On the subject of Groupon in Asia: it seems the Internet giant is planning to extend its reach in Southeast Asia and launch in Thailand