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BENTONVILLE, AR-Wal-Mart Stores is cutting back its store growth with plans to open just 195 of its US Supercenters during the current fiscal year, down from 281 last year. It will grow even more slowly in fiscal 2009, with 170 units and drop to 140 new locations the following period.

“This strategy will increase free cash flow, allowing Wal-Mart to fund strategic acquisitions and provide returns for our shareholders through dividends and share repurchase,” says Tom Schoewe, the company’s EVP and CFO. Wal-Mart has bought chains outside of the US but has not traditionally purchased other operations in this country.

The retailer will also convert its existing discount stores into Supercenters.

The company is also ratcheting down the number of Sam’s Clubs wholesale locations it is opening by planning 26 this year, down from 32 in fiscal 2007. There are 25 new Sam’s locations forecast for both 2009 and 2010.

It’s Neighborhood Market grocery stores are an exception with 22 planned for the coming year on top of 2007′s 12. Twenty-five are planned for both 2009 and 2010.

The retail giant is stepping up its international new-store efforts. Without providing the exact number of new stores, executives say they are planning on 19-to-20-million sf of new store space in foreign countries in the coming year, 24-to-25-million sf in 2009 and 28-to-30-million sf in 2010.

Wal-Mart will decrease it’s total capital expenditures in 2008 to $15 billion from $15.7 billion in its last fiscal year. The company currently operates just over 1,000 discount stores, nearly 2,400 Supercenters, 586 Sam’s Clubs, 125 Neighborhood Markets, and internationally, it operates close to 3,000 stores.

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