Wal-Mart Stores Inc. attributed a 7.8 percent decrease in first-quarter earnings to investments in people and technology, but exceeded analysts’ expectations by 10 cents.
Before the stock markets opened Thursday, the world’s largest retailer reported earnings of $3.08 billion, or 98 cents per share, for the quarter that ended April 30, down from $3.34 billion, or $1.03 per share, in the same period a year ago.
The Bentonville-based company topped the average earnings estimate of 88 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters.
Revenue rose .9 percent, to $115.9 billion, including membership fees and other income.
Walmart’s U.S. division, the company’s largest, reported net sales of $73.3 billion, up 4.3 percent. Sales at stores open at least one year, considered a key indicator of a retailer’s health, rose 1 percent.
This was the U.S. division’s seventh consecutive quarter of positive same-store sales.
Net sales for Walmart International dropped 7.2 percent, to $28.08 billion.
And net sales, including fuel, at Sam’s Club, Walmart’s warehouse club division, rose 1 percent to $13.61 billion. Same-store sales, excluding fuel, grew .1 percent.
Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon said he was pleased to see the sales increase for stores open at least a year, a strong performance outside the U.S., positive membership trends in Sam’s Club and that earnings were better than analysts expected.
“We are focused on building the e-commerce capabilities we need to drive growth to a higher level and deliver the seamless shopping experience for customers they desire,” McMillon said. “Another highlight is the improved inventory position that contributed to strong cash flow performance. We’re off to a good start for the year.”
Brett Biggs, the retailer’s chief financial officer, said Walmart returned $3.98 billion to shareholders during the quarter through dividends and share repurchases.
Walmart’s shares were up $5.70 or 9.03 percent at mid-morning, trading at $68.85 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares have traded between $56.30 and $76.50 in the past year.