- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Feb. 18 (UPI) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said Tuesday its fourth-quarter net income for the period ended Jan. 31 jumped to a record $2.53 billion, or 57 cents a share, from $2.19 billion, or 49 cents a share during the same period a year-earlier.

Analysts on Wall Street had expected Wal-Mart to post a net income of 56 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call.

Total sales rose 10.7 percent to $71.07 billion from $64.21 billion a year ago. Sales at Wal-Mart stores rose 11.2 percent, Sam's Club sales rose 5.2 percent, international sales jumped 12.7 percent and McLane sales rose 11.3 percent.

Comparable sales for the quarter were up 2.7 percent. This is represented by a 3.3 percent comp increase for the Wal-Mart stores and a 0.4 percent same-store decline for Sam's.

For the year, the retailer said its net income jumped to $8.04 billion, or $1.81 a share, from $6.67 billion, or $1.49 a share a year earlier.

Sales for the year climbed 12.3 percent to $244.52 billion from $217.80 billion during the same period a year earlier.

Wal-Mart earlier this month nudged up its full-year earnings target, citing better-than-expected results from its international division.

Lee Scott, president and chief executive officer said, "In a challenging retail environment with slowing comparable sales growth, we achieved another year of record sales and earnings. Net income exceeded $8 billion for the year for the first time and sales grew by almost $27 billion."

In the fourth quarter, Wal-Mart Stores segment, including supercenters, had operating profit, or profit before interest, unallocated corporate expenses, and income taxes, of $3.59 billion, an increase of 15.8 percent from the $3.10 billion in the previous year. For the year operating profit rose 16.2 percent to $11.87 billion from $10.22 billion in the previous year.

The Sam's Club segment posted an operating profit for the quarter of $295 million, a decrease of 0.7 percent from the $297 million for the similar period in the previous year. Sam's operating profit for the year was $1.03 billion, which was unchanged from the similar period in the previous year.

Wal-Mart's international segment posted an operating profit of $757 million for the quarter, a 37.6 percent improvement over the $550 million posted for the similar period a year earlier. For the year, international operating profit surged 55.8 percent to $2.03 billion from $1.31 billion a year ago.

The retailer, who employs more than 1 million staffers, currently operates 1,568 Wal-Mart stores, 1,258 supercenters, 525 Sam's Clubs and 49 Neighborhood Markets in the United States.

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