Mexican retailer Wal-Mart de Mexico (Walmex) has said it is to invest 7.2bn pesos (US$651.8m) to open 77 new stores over the next 18 months.

The company said the plan to invest in expansion was approved at a shareholders meeting this week, reported Reuters.

Walmex, which is majority owned by US retail titan Wal-Mart, recently reported an 8% rise in fourth-quarter net profit and record sales for 2003.

Last year the company invested around 5.2bn pesos in expansion and modernisation, opening 46 new stores. Walmex now operates a chain of 640 retail outlets and restaurants.