Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported a healthy sales gain in its fiscal 2011 first quarter and posted earnings that beat financial analysts' forecast.

Walmart, Wal-Mart Stores, first quarter, fiscal 2011, earnings, sales, revenue, comparable-store, Sam's Club, Walmart U.S., Walmart International, discount store, Mike Duke, Tom Schoewe, Russell Redman

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Walmart 1Q tops Wall Street estimates

May 18th, 2010

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported a healthy sales gain in its fiscal 2011 first quarter and posted earnings that beat financial analysts' forecast.

The discount store giant on Tuesday said sales for the quarter ended April 30 rose 6% to $99.1 billion from $93.5 billion a year earlier. First-quarter 2011 revenue included a currency exchange rate benefit of $2.5 billion, the company noted.

U.S. comparable-store sales in the first quarter, however, dipped 1.1% (excluding fuel business), reflecting at 1.4% decrease at Walmart U.S. stores and a 0.7% gain at Sam's Club. Including fuel, overall comp-store sales tailed off 0.5% in the quarter, with Walmart U.S. down 1.4% and Sam's Club up by 3.9%.

By operating segment, Walmart U.S. saw sales climb 5.6% to $4.64 billion in the fiscal 2011 first quarter. Sam's Club also had a strong increase, with sales up 9.2% to $429 million in the quarter, while revenue surged 27.8% at Walmart International to nearly $1.1 billion.

Income from continuing operations attributable to Walmart for the 2011 first quarter increased 9.7% to $3.32 billion from $3.03 billion in the year-ago period. Diluted earnings per share from continuing operations attributable to Walmart came in at 88 cents, including a 2 cents per share currency exchange rate benefit, compared with 77 cents a year earlier.

The average analyst estimate for Walmart's fiscal 2011 first-quarter earnings was 85 cents per share, with the forecast ranging from 82 cents to 87 cents, according to Thomson Financial.

"Walmart kicked off the fiscal year with record first-quarter net sales and earnings, and I'm pleased that earnings exceeded guidance," Wal-Mart Stores president and chief executive officer Mike Duke said in a statement. "Our teams around the world delivered on our commitment to the productivity loop. We leveraged operating expenses for the second consecutive quarter and improved the profitability of our business.

"Our customers, particularly in the United States, are still concerned about their personal finances and unemployment, as well as higher fuel prices," Duke added. "Our commitment to reducing prices and managing expenses positions us well across the retail landscape."

Walmart reported that it ended the fiscal 2011 first quarter with negative free cash flow of approximately $1.6 billion, which stemmed from a lower inventory position at the end of fiscal 2010. The retailer said inventory levels rebounded by the end of the quarter but still remain at levels in line with the company's improved inventory management. This inventory increase negatively impacted free cash flow by more than $2 billion.

Walmart said it added 3.6 million square feet of retail selling space in the fiscal 2011 first quarter and expects to have a significant number of new store openings in the second and third quarters.

For the fiscal 2011 second quarter, the retailer forecasts earnings per share from continuing operations attributable to Walmart to range from 93 cents to 98 cents, compared with 88 cents per share last year. Thomson Financial reports an average analyst estimate of 98 cents per share for the second quarter

"Our guidance is based on our view of the global business. This includes the continuing challenging sales environment in the United States," commented Tom Schoewe, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Wal-Mart Stores. "We remain on track to deliver solid growth, operating leverage and superior returns.

"The company grew sales by 6% and added more than 3.6 million square feet of selling space during the first quarter," Schoewe stated. "In fact, we are confirming our initial capital spending guidance of $13 billion to $15 billion this year, as we continue to invest in new stores and remodeling our existing stores and clubs."