Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Stronger dollar knocks Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart store
Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer

Supermarket giant Wal-Mart has reported an 8% fall in quarterly profits, as the higher value of the US dollar ate into its overseas earnings.

For the three months to the end of January, the US group made a net profit of $3.8bn (2.7bn), down from $4.1bn for the same period a year earlier.

However, its latest results were better than analyst expectations, thanks to a 2.8% rise in same-store US sales.

UK supermarket Asda, which is owned by Wal-Mart, also saw sales growth.

'Value for money'

Like-for-like sales, excluding petrol, at the UK's second biggest supermarket were up 7.2% on the quarter. Annual sales were up 6.5%.

Asda also said it had gained 800,000 new customers during 2008, on top of its existing 17 million shoppers.

"Customers tell us they want proof not promises - simple transparent low prices not vague price claims," said Asda president and chief executive Andy Bond.

He added that people were willing to spend, but would only do so if they believed they were getting "genuine value for money".

'Strong sales'

Total quarterly sales at Wal-Mart were up 1.7% to $108bn.

International earnings were down 8.4% due to the high value of the dollar.

The company said its quarterly profit was also hit by $255m in legal bills. In December the company had to settle a number of class action lawsuits that had accused it of breaking labour laws.

"Wal-Mart recorded the strongest sales result in its history in the fourth quarter with $108bn in sales," said Mike Duke, Wal-Mart's president and chief executive.

Net sales for the full financial year were $401bn, an increase of 7.2% on the same period a year ago.

Wal-Mart shares were up nearly 1% in premarket trading.

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