Wal-Mart Stores posted quarterly income slightly better than what the market was expecting, but officials with the world’s largest retailer have lowered future earnings guidance based on tougher competition and worries about the economy.
The Bentonville-based retailer reported third quarter net income of $3.738 billion, up 2.8% compared to the same quarter in 2012. The per share income of $1.14 was just ahead of the $1.13 consensus among market watchers.
Total revenue missed the market expectation. Revenue in the quarter was $115.688 billion, up 1.7% compared to the 2012 quarter, but below the $116.84 billion consensus.
“Walmart delivered solid earnings growth that was within our guidance range. We had strong operating income across our segments, with Walmart U.S. growing almost 6 percent, Sam’s Club increasing more than 9 percent, and International up 8 percent on a constant currency basis,” Mike Duke, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, said in the earnings statement.
Comp stores sales in the U.S. – a closely watched metric – were down 0.3% in the quarter. However, the retailer’s smaller store Neighborhood Market saw comp sales rise 3.4%.
Sam’s Club comp sales were up 1.1% – sans fuel – in the quarter and Walmart International saw sales increase 4.1%.
In a recorded call, Duke said consumers in the U.S. remain wary about the economic outlook and concerned about their jobs. The call also noted weak sales in grocery and entertainment – two important revenue and income sectors for the retailer.
“Our most important priority is growing top line sales, including comp sales,” Duke noted in the statement. “The retail environment, both in stores and online, remains competitive. Walmart has aggressive plans to help our customers enjoy the holiday season, and there is no doubt that we plan to win for our customers and shareholders throughout the holidays.”
Even with the aggressive plans, the company is not confident that consumers will spend more during the holidays. Wal-Mart has lowered its fourth quarter earnings per share guidance to between $1.50 and $1.60. The actual earnings may be 10 cents per share higher. The company reported a 10 cents per share cost is likely during the fourth quarter in a move to close 50 underperforming stores in Brazil and China (6 cents), and the ending of a franchise agreement in India (4 cents).
Full year guidance was lowered to range between $5.11 and $5.21. The previous guidance was a range between $5.10 and $5.30. Wal-Mart guidance earlier in the fiscal year had per share earnings in the $5.20-$5.40 range.
Wal-Mart has posted net income of $11.591 billion for the first three fiscal quarters of the year, up 1.7% compared to the same period in 2012. Total revenue for the first three fiscal quarters is $346.588 billion, also up 1.7% compared to the 2012 period.
Wal-Mart shares (NYSE: WMT) closed Wednesday at $78.90. During the past 52 weeks the share price has ranged between a $79.96 high to a $67.37 low.