Celebrating the fact that it had become the biggest company in the world, the one-time small town discounter turned $218bn global player warned rivals: "You ain't seen nuthin' yet!" With all the razzmatazz of the Hollywood Oscars, it "presented the annual figures" in a style which would make the average UK stockholder cower behind his FT. Not for W-M the age-old stuffy tea-and-biscuits results session. It serves its annual report spiced with what one investor explained was the "Wow factor". This year, that meant soaring to new heights with the twin peaks of supermodel Cindy Crawford, a posse of big league American football stars, squeaky tv fashion boppers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, plus a couple of famous Country and Western warblers following closely behind. And all accompanied by deafening renditions of John Philip Sousa and the obligatory heavenly choir. But through the glitz and glamour came a serious message ­ W-M is still on course to conquer the retailing world. Led by president and CEO Lee Scott, a beaming phalanx of steel grey-suited executives paraded on stage to herald the successes of the past 12 months as well as pointing out a few they have in sight for next year. Japan and Puerto Rico are the latest international markets where the Bentonville flag is being flown. And while the W-M team, for its part, stuck to its time-honoured custom of not commenting on takeover talk, it did not stop analysts suggesting that a new deal in Britain or France was a strong possibility. The official line, however, was that 120 to 130 new stores were planned for the international division. And, while it was revealed that the company is budgeting $10bn for capital expenditure next year, chairman of the board Rob Walton said one third of that would be spent internationally. Walton expects, incidentally, that a third of W-M's earning growth will come from the international division. And, while W-M hailed the overall success of its overseas activities, there was special mention for its UK growth which an upbeat Asda chief operating officer Tony DeNunzio summed up as "one amazing year". Having said that, he and deputy md Richard Baker were at pains to tell executives from both sides of the pond that their lives were not being dominated by "the numbers game". Sure, the ambition is to overtake Sainsbury and challenge Tesco for top UK spot, but the overriding message was that Asda was continuing to refine its offer, especially where healthy eating was concerned. Baker says the company is continually reinventing its supercentres ­"Britain's most successful retailing format". It has used Bentonville expertise to open six giant Asda-Wal-Mart units, combining Asda's strength in food with Wal-Mart's traditional non-food talents in up to 100,000sq ft. That's more than twice the size of Asda's traditional stores. In addition, new ones will open in Manchester and Livingston this year. Meanwhile, DeNunzio and Baker hailed the benefits coming from W-M's new global procurement team. This has successfully staged suppliers' fairs in several countries at which local firms have been given access to W-M buyers from across the world. A similar event may be staged in the UK early next year. But it was left to W-M boss Lee Scott to sum up the group's operating philosophy: "It doesn't matter if a competitor is selling at an 80% margin. If the right thing for our customer is for us to sell at a 40% margin, then that is what we will do." And, with a nod to the 20,000 strong audience packing Arkansas University indoor basketball stadium, he added: "The difference between W-M and other retailers is not our merchandise, it's the culture of our company." The Arkansas juggernaut is still rolling. {{NEWS }}