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Magazine > Fortune > News Content
Wal-Mart's 4Q earnings decline 7.4 percent
      2/17/2009 6:51:36 AM

Wal-Mart's 4th-quarter profit falls 7 percent, hurt by charge related to lawsuit settlement

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profit fell 7.4 percent as it was hurt by the strong dollar and a charge from settling a labor lawsuit. The company also said first-quarter earnings could miss Wall Street expectations.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter earned $3.79 billion, or 96 cents per share in the quarter ended Jan. 31. That compares with $4.096 billion, or $1.02 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected the company to earn 99 cents per share, excluding the after-tax charge for the settlement announced in December of 63 class-action wage and hour lawsuits. Excluding the impact of that, Wal-Mart earned $1.03 per share.

Total sales rose to $109.12 billion from $107.34 billion a year earlier. Analysts expected $109.1 billion. Sales at stores open at least a year rose 2.8 percent in the quarter. Same-store sales are considered a key indicator of retailer's health.

During the quarter, Wal-Mart's U.S. sales rose 6 percent to $71.46 billion, while its Sam's Club warehouse division saw sales virtually flat at $11.84 billion.

Sales fell 8.4 percent to $24.7 billion at the company's important international division, hurt by the lower value of currencies against the strengthening dollar. On a constant currency basis, international sales rose 9 percent in the fourth quarter, the company said.

Wal-Mart has been one of the few bright spots in retailing as it benefits from shoppers looking for cheaper options and focusing on necessities during the recession. But it is now being forced to adjust to the deteriorating economy -- announcing last week that it will cut up to 800 jobs at its headquarters as it makes changes, including cutting the number of new stores it will build this year. It's also cutting inventory.

The company now expects earnings for the fiscal first quarter of 72 cents to 77 cents per share. Analysts project 77 cents per share. For the full fiscal year, Wal-Mart expects a profit of $3.45 per share to $3.60 per share. Analysts expect $3.59 per share.

Chief Financial Officer Tom Schoewe said the projections assume currency rates will remain about the same as they were at the end of its 2009 fiscal year -- which would hurt its year-over-year comparison of fiscal 2010 earnings per share by approximately 13 cents per share.

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