Brazil's Pão de Açúcar planning to open 500 new stores by 2014 on expectation that household consumption will drive local economy

SAO PAULO , January 11, 2013 () – * CEO says to speed expansion from 80 new stores in 2012

* 30,000 new jobs in next 3 yrs at Brazil's biggest employer

Grupo Pão de Açúcar , Brazil's biggest diversified retailer, said on Thursday it plans to open 500 new stores by 2015, accelerating growth in a bet that household consumption will continue to drive the local economy.

"We have a very aggressive expansion plan," Chief Executive Enéas Pestana said in a company newsletter on Thursday. He reiterated that the group would accelerate openings of its wholesale Assai stores and Minimercado Extra format.

Pão de Açúcar opened about 80 new stores last year, Pestana said. The group closed 25 stores through September of last year.

Executives said last month that they planned 100 new stores this year in the smaller Minimercado Extra alone, as the company focused on its supermarket business amid disappointing results from its recently integrated appliance units.

Pestana said in Thursday's newsletter that the group's expansion would create about 30,000 jobs over the next three years, growing the company's workforce from about 160,000 currently.

Pão de Açúcar is Brazil's biggest private-sector employer.

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