* Cencosud to invest around $425 million this year
* Retailer has expanded aggressively in South America
* No purchases or new debt issues planned in 2014 -CEO
SANTIAGO, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Chilean retailer Cencosud will invest less this year than in 2013 and shy away from purchases as it seeks to consolidate its Brazilian and Colombian operations and lower debt after an aggressive expansion in booming South America.
The retailer said on Thursday it will invest roughly $425 million in 2014, under last year’s planned $731 million investment.
Analysts say the retailer’s investment plans have been affected by the decision by Itaú Unibanco Holding SA, Brazil’s largest bank by market value, to scrap plans to buy a 51 percent stake in Cencosud’s card payment unit in Argentina and Chile.
“Our focus is on consolidation,” Chief Executive Officer Daniel Rodriguez told reporters on Thursday.
“We’re going to keep growing, but at a different speed,” he said, adding the company isn’t planning any fresh purchases or new debt issues this year.
Cencosud, which says it aims to become the region’s biggest retailer, will open more stores in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru.
Its 2014 investment plan includes $210 million for the opening of 51 new stores, $75 million for maintenance of current ones and $100 million for technology and Internet-based operations.
Several Chilean retail heavyweights have expanded in South America, lured by a growing middle class with easy access to credit.
Still, some analysts warn the consumption boom is unsustainable and could slow if commodities demand from key trade partner China slows sharply.
Cencosud is expecting to reap between $20.4 billion and $21.3 billion in 2014 revenue.
The company in February forecast 2013 revenue would be $22.5 billion.
Results for full-year 2013 have not yet been released.