SAO PAULO, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Brazilian wholesale chain Assai expects to open 15 new stores in 2024, down from 27 expected for this year, hoping the slowdown will keep its leverage under control, the company said on Monday.

After a long cycle of expansion, Assai is looking to "keep leverage at more comfortable levels," CEO Belmiro Gomes told journalists after the company's annual event with investors.

"In 2025, we will resume a very strong expansion plan," he added. The chain expects to open around 20 stores by 2025.

Assai has already concluded the conversion of 60 of the 66 Extra hypermarket stores it acquired from GPA in 2021 and plans to finish the remainder by early next year, Gomes said.

Now, the company aims to reduce its net debt to earnings before interest, taxes, amortization and depreciation (EBITDA) ratio to 3.5 times by the end of 2024, compared with 4.4 times at the end of September.

Deleveraging should carry on "substantially" into 2025, although there is still no official forecast, said CFO Daniela Sabbag.

Assai also forecast investments of between 1.5 billion reais and 2 billion reais ($408.46 million) for next year, compared with 4.5 billion reais in 2022.

($1 = 4.8964 reais) (Reporting by Andre Romani; Editing by David Gregorio)