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Wal-Mart's World to Swell in '06

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- The world's biggest retailer said last week it intends to only get bigger. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. here on Friday confirmed that its plans for the coming year include 370 U.S. units, larger stores for Canada, and up to 230 new stores in other countries.

Just last week, Wal-Mart acquired 545 new stores, along with more than 50,000 new associates, in Japan and Brazil, capping a year of robust growth. On Thursday, the company's proposed deal to acquire a majority interest in The Seiyu Ltd., a leading Japanese chain with 405 stores, was given the nod by Seiyu shareholders. This followed an announcement Wednesday that Wal-Mart would acquire 140 Sonae stores in Brazil.

Friday, Wal-Mart said it would build expanded stores, offering fresh food and a wider selection, in Canada next year.

These developments all followed the September announcement that Wal-Mart had purchased a one-third interest in Central American Retail Holding Co. (CARHCO) with 363 supermarkets and other stores in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

Wal-Mart's growth plan 2006 includes opening as many as 600 new stores and clubs in various spots on the globe. Wal-Mart currently operates more than 5,400 stores and clubs worldwide.

"For many companies, any one of these announcements would be major news for the year," admitted Mike Duke, vice chairman, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. "We are so grateful for the loyalty of customers all over the world who shop with us and allow us to grow. Clearly, our savings matter to working families -- in any currency."

Wal-Mart Canada confirmed last week that the company would expand three Wal-Mart stores in Ontario in late 2006. When complete, the stores will dedicate additional space to enhanced product offerings in its customers' most popular departments: food, fashion, electronics and home products. Wal-Mart Canada operates 257 Wal-Mart discount stores and six Sam's Clubs.

As of Nov. 30, 2005, Wal-Mart operated 1,224 discount stores, 1,929 Supercenters, 558 Sam's Clubs, and 97 Neighborhood Markets in the United States, and 1,707 units in international markets as follows: Argentina (11), Brazil (155), Canada (263), China (51), Germany (88), South Korea (16), Mexico (768), Puerto Rico (54) and the United Kingdom (313).
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