Wal-Mart said it plans to open up to 55 new discount stores and 230 new supercentres in the US next year.

The programme for 2004 is to build 90 new stores, with support from three new general merchandise and two new food distribution centres. This will add 5 million sq ft of distribution space.

Internationally Wal-Mart plans to open 130 to 140 stores in existing markets. Relocations or expansion of existing sites will account for about 30 of these stores, the remainder will represent new outlets.

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott said: "We believe that the combination of square-footage growth and same-store sales increases will allow us to achieve total shareholder return in the mid-term of 13% to 15%."