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Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 23:07 GMT
Overseas sales drive Wal-Mart
Inside a Wal-Mart store
Wal-Mart saw record sales last year
Strong sales at its overseas operations have helped Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, to record better-than-expected profits.

Net income for the November to January quarter rose by 15.5% on the same period a year ago to $2.53bn (1.58bn), a figure slightly stronger than analysts had been forecasting.

The results were helped by encouraging sales at Wal-Mart's operations in the UK, Canada and Mexico.

For the 12 months to the end of January. Wal-Mart posted net profits of $8.04bn, with annual sales up 12.3% at $244.5bn.

"In a challenging retail environment with slowing comparable sales growth, we achieved another year of record sales and earnings," said Wal-Mart president and chief executive Lee Scott.

Overseas sparkle

Operating profits at Wal-Mart's overseas operations jumped 37.6% to $757m for the quarter.

In the UK, Wal-Mart's supermarket chain Asda put in a strong performance.

Its sales rose sharply, driven by strong growth in non-food items such as clothing and electrical goods.

Wal-Mart is one of a number of firms to have expressed an interest in bidding for Safeway, the UK's fourth largest supermarket chain.

Sam's struggle

The latest figures showed sales growth at the company's US operations slowed over the past year.

During the latest quarter, sales at stores open at least one year grew by 2.3%, compared with growth of 8.1% during the first quarter.

And sales at Wal-Mart's Sam's Club warehouse stores were hit by fierce competition from rivals.

Operating profit from Sam's Club stores slipped 0.7% to $295m in the quarter.

Shares in Wal-Mart closed down 7 cents at $49.08 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

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The BBC's Jeff Randall
"Wal-Mart has become a $250bn golliath"
See also:

14 Jan 03 | Business
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