Bentonville, Ark. Wal-Mart Stores reported a 22% increase in its fourth-quarter profit, but said same-store sales at its U.S. locations dipped. The discounter offered tepid first-quarter earnings guidance.
"U.S. sales will be more challenging in the first quarter, as Walmart U.S. cycles through strong year-over-year comparisons and deflation," said Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke in a statement. "We remain focused on growing top-line sales, and expect improvement in the United States as the year progresses."
Profit for the fourth quarter that ended Jan. 31 rose to $4.63 billion, from $3.79 billion last year. Sales in the quarter rose 4.6% to $112.82 billion, below Wall Street’s view.
Total U.S. same-store sales fell 1.6%, with sales edging up 0.7% at its Sam's Club warehouse division and falling 2% in its Walmart stores.
The worse-than-expected sales results were due primarily to falling prices in grocery and electronics, the company said. In a conference call, Wal-Mart executives said customer traffic had also fallen, with performance affected by the chain’s Project Impact store remodeling initiative.
For the full year, Wal-Mart reported an 8.8% jump in profit to $14.4 billion, and sales rose 1% to $405 billion.