Wal-Mart Opens California Megastore

LA QUINTA, Calif. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. opens its first California supercenter today, bracing local food retailers for heated competition following the longest running supermarket strike.

The La Quinta supercenter is located near Palm Springs about two hours from Los Angeles.

Wal-Mart was labeled as a key reason behind the 20-week southern California grocery strikes and lockouts. Grocers, who say they must cut labor costs to compete with Wal-Mart, pushed hard for workers to accept a bigger portion of health care costs.

Wal-Mart has said it plans to open 40 supercenters in California in the next few years.

Several California communities have passed ordinances seeking to block supercenters, which they contend drive down wages and push local shopkeepers out of business.

In other Wal-Mart news, the company said Tuesday it increased its quarterly dividend 44 percent, to 13 cents from 9 cents. The retailer said the increase will let it return more than $2.2 billion in dividends to shareholders this year.

Wal-Mart also said it plans to continue its $7 billion share repurchase program announced on Jan. 5.

The dividend is payable April 5 to shareholders of record March 19.

Wal-Mart has increased its dividend every year since its first declared dividend in March 1974, according to Reuters.
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