* To open 40 new supercenters, generate 9,200 new jobs
* Says to invest more than half a bln dollars
* To open stores in Manitoba and Quebec
* Wal-Mart shares touch year high (Recasts, adds details, background, share movement)
By Arnika Thakur
BANGALORE, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Walmart Canada, a unit of the world’s biggest retailer Wal-Mart Stores (WMT.N), plans to open 40 more supercenters in the country that has been seeing stronger retail sales growth than its southern neighbor.
The third-largest employer in Canada with 85,000 associates expects the new supercenters to generate more than 9,200 store and construction jobs.
Walmart Canada, which plans to invest more than $500 million in the project, already has its centers in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. It is bringing the supercenters to two more provinces, Manitoba and Quebec.
Since mid-2006, Canadian retail sales have grown 3 to 4 percentage points faster than the U.S. market, prompting more and more U.S. chains to expand their business across the border, according to a recent Reuters report.
Brand awareness, similar shopping habits and higher profit margins in the Canadian retail sector are also factors for U.S. retailers looking to begin expansion, a report by Moody’s Investor Services said late last year.
Also, demand for retail property in Canada has been growing, aided by a strong domestic economy and relatively modest retail rental rates. [ID:nN18236768] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Factbox on U.S. retailers eyeing Canada: [ID:nN13214984]
Factbox on foreign retailers in Canada: [ID:nN18296096]
Walmart, which offers groceries and general merchandise under one roof, launched its supercenter format in Ontario in 2006, twelve years after entering the country.
Earlier this month, Target Corp (TGT.N), the No. 2 U.S. discount retailer, made its first international foray, taking over Canadian leases for Zellers stores owned by Hudson’s Bay Co, North America’s oldest company. [ID:nN13263162]
In October last year, Walmart had unveiled plans to increase store building in the United States in 2011, and said it would add more smaller stores to try to reach more customers. [ID:nN13263137]
The current project in Canada includes building new stores and expanding, remodelling or relocating existing stores, Walmart Canada said in a statement.
By January 2012, its store count in Canada is expected to be 333 — 164 supercenters and 169 discount stores.
Wal-Mart, which slashed prices on thousands of everyday items such as cereal and laundry detergent in its U.S. stores last year to counter falling consumer spending, is taking over South African retailer Massmart (MSMJ.J) amid stiff opposition from Massmart unions. [ID:nLDE70K1UX]
Wal-Mart shares rose 46 cents to a year high of $57.72 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Arnika Thakur; Editing by Maju Samuel and Gopakumar Warrier)