UPDATE 1-Wal-Mart sets new $15 bln repurchase plan

* Wal-Mart annual kicks off with cheers, celebrities

* Jamie Foxx hosts

* Sets new $15 bln share repurchase plan

* Shareholders look for cash, U.S. strategy

* Shares down 1 percent
(Adds company comment, share activity)

By Brad Dorfman

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark., June 4 (BestGrowthStock) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc
(WMT.N: ) announced a new $15 billion share repurchase plan at
its annual meeting on Friday, as shareholders look for greater
returns from the world’s largest retailer.

The new program comes after the company repurchased about
$10 billion in shares over the past year, Chief Financial
Officer Tom Schoewe said during the company’s annual
shareholder meeting/company pep rally at the University of
Arkansas basketball arena.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart raised its annual dividend by
11 percent.

Even though the company’s U.S. sales have been sluggish
amid high unemployment and gasoline prices, it has still
generated strong cash flow, reaching about $14 billion in its
latest fiscal year. Strong international sales and a focus on
reining in expenses have helped.

Among the 16,000 people gathered on Friday at the arena
were shareholders hoping for more cash and employees looking
for big-name entertainment and pep-rally motivation.

They got both. The meeting was hosted by Oscar-winning
actor Jamie Foxx and featured musical performances by the likes
of Mary J Blige, Enrique Iglesias and Mariah Carey.

Foxx started with a song that celebrated Walmart’s price
rollbacks and then went into an impersonation of American
musician Ray Charles, whom Foxx played in a biopic.

In a video that introduced Foxx, he looked for his movies
in a Walmart video section, while in the cosmetics department,
he pointed to makeup ads that featured female co-stars he has
kissed on the screen.

“Sometimes I just come to Walmart in the makeup section to
hang out with my girlfriends,” he said.

But shareholders want to hear how the company will work
through sluggish sales in the United States, where sales at its
discount stores open at least a year have fallen for the last
four quarters, analysts said. [Graphic link
http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/10/US_WMTSSS0610.gif]

U.S. HIRING STILL WEAK

The company has said that high unemployment and rising
gasoline prices have pressured sales in the United States.

“We get up every single day and look at the newspaper and
what do we see, one set of bad news after another,” Schoewe
said.

The latest snapshot of the U.S. jobs market was
disappointing, with the government saying on Friday that the
private sector hired fewer people than expected in May.
[ID:nN03243431]

Walmart has announced thousands of price “rollbacks” to
attract customers who remain on very tight budgets. It has
aggressively cut costs to help fund the rollbacks and increase
earnings. Overseas sales have also helped lift results.
[ID:nN03234955]

While low prices resonate with some customers, those who
feel more secure in their jobs have started to shift to rival
Target Corp (TGT.N: ) and some department stores to buy more
discretionary items like clothing and home furnishings.

At the other end of the spectrum, Walmart faces increasing
pressure from dollar stores, which have added food offerings in
order to attract customers.

Shares of Wal-Mart were down 63 cents or 1.2 percent to
$51.10 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Stock Market

(Reporting by Brad Dorfman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Gerald
E. McCormick)

UPDATE 1-Wal-Mart sets new $15 bln repurchase plan