Supermarket chain Asda is to open 168 stores in 2011 - the largest single year of growth in its history, it has confirmed.
The new space is a combination of planned growth and the acquisition of 147 Netto stores which will all trade under the Asda supermarkets banner. The retailer will also open seven new Asda Superstores, four new Asda Livings, 10 new Asda Supermarkets and five extensions to existing stores.
The chain entered into a contract last week to acquire six stores from Focus DIY, which will be converted into supermarkets subject to approvals and local planning consents.
The Office of Fair Trading has demanded Asda sell stores in 47 locations for competition reasons - 25 up front and the rest after the deal.
Asda, which is owned by American retail giant Walmart, agreed a £778m deal to buy Danish discount chain Netto's 194 UK stores in May.
The acquisition will allow Asda to greatly expand its portfolio of smaller stores.
Asda has 15 supermarkets and one Asda Living store in Northern Ireland, employs over 4,000 people and recently announced plans to invest a further £100m here.
The firm spent over £70m last year in sourcing products from Northern Ireland suppliers and has invested £230m in food and drink products since moving here in 2005.