Wal-Mart opens stores in less populous parts of Argentina

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BUENOS AIRES -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will invest more than $100m over the next year to open four Wal-Mart Supercenter stores in Argentina, according to the company's international vice-president and CEO Bob Martin.

The stores, which will be built in the Argentine secondary cities of La Plata, Mar del Plata, Santa Fe and an undisclosed location, will bring the world's largest retailer's total investment in Argentina to more than $300m.

They also mark a break from Wal-Mart's past strategy in Argentina. Since entering the market in August 1995, its two Sam's Club wholesale centers and two Wal-Mart Supercenters have been in metropolitan Buenos Aires - Argentina's capital and home to nearly one-third of the population.

"The new stores will be smaller, scaled-down to fit the local environment," says Martin, who expects to see Wal-Mart's investment here become profitable after the third full year of operations, or around late 1998."We're excited and committed to Argentina."

Wal-Mart's international expansion will continue to focus on emerging markets where large discount retailers have not taken hold, Martin says. "Developing countries hold the highest potential. Many developed markets are saturated."

The company later this week will announce an expansion of its Brazilian operations, where it owns 60% of two Supercenters and three Sam's Clubs.

Rio de Janeiro-based Lojas Americanas SA, Brazil's largest discount retailer, owns the remaining 40% of the venture.

Copyright October 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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