MEXICO CITY Mexico's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart de Mexico WALMEXV.MX, expects to spend up to $1.4 billion on investments in 2013, but in a break with tradition the company declined to say how many stores it plans to open this year.
Walmex, as the company controlled by Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) is known locally, is under investigation in the United States and Mexico for allegedly bribing Mexican officials to speed up store openings.
The company said on Thursday it expects to increase total store space by 8 percent to 9 percent in Mexico and 6 percent in Central America this year.
But it would not disclose how many stores it will open, company executives said at a meeting with analysts.
"We think that the number of stores does not communicate much," said Chief Executive Scot Rank in response to an analyst question about why the company will not reveal planned openings.
The retailer said its capital expenditure of between 17.3 billion and 17.9 billion Mexican pesos ($1.35 billion-$1.4 billion) will include spending of between 9.2 billion pesos and 9.8 billion pesos on new stores.
That compares with planned spending of 12.2 billion pesos on new stores announced in February 2012. However, last year's planned store openings were cut after the New York Times published a story in April with details of the bribery allegations.
The company last June said it would open 325 to 335 stores in 2012 in Mexico and Central America, for a store space increase of 8 percent in Mexico and 9 percent in Central America.
Total investment for 2012 was pegged at 17.48 billion pesos, according to that revised expansion plan.
Walmex posted a weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday.
The company's shares closed down 0.82 percent at 40.98 pesos. The shares are down 3 percent year to date.
($1 = 12.7739 Mexican pesos)
(Reporting by Elinor Comlay; editing by Gary Hill, G Crosse and Gunna Dickson)