Wal-Mart Q1 earnings rise on overseas strength, U.S. still slumping

Bentonville, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores reported Tuesday that net income for the first quarter ended April 30 rose 3% to $3.39 billion, beating Wall Street estimates. Overall results were powered by overseas stores and stringent cost controls, but business in the United States remains soft as U.S. Walmart stores posted an eighth straight quarter of same-store declines.

Wal-Mart's U.S. division recorded a 0.3% dip in same-store revenue, dragged down by a 1.1% drop at its namesake stores. Same-store sales increased 4.2% at Sam’s Club warehouse stores.
 
Revenue system-wide rose 4.4% to $103.4 billion, beating Wall Street estimates of $102.8 billion.

Wal-Mart has issued a cautious second quarter outlook, citing concerns that rising gas and grocery prices would negatively impact its low-income customers.

"We are monitoring the economic environment carefully, as significant changes in gas prices and inflation during the quarter will influence our actual performance," Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president and CEO, said in a statement.

Wal-Mart's international business saw revenue rise 11.5% to $27.9 billion in the first quarter, led by the biggest gains in Mexico, China and Chile. Revenue grew strongly in all international markets except Japan, which was hurt by the earthquake and tsunami.
 
Sam's Club revenue rose 9.4%. It accounts for about 12% of company revenue. Wal-Mart's U.S. division revenue edged up 0.6% on increased store counts.

In April, CEO Mike Duke indicated that U.S. store momentum is a "critical priority." It has been re-focusing on low prices and growing its merchandise after cutting back in some categories to combat rising inflation, high unemployment and a weak housing market.

In other news reported Monday, Wal-Mart threatened to walk away from a proposed $2.4 billion acquisition of South African retailer Massmart if conditions are imposed following recommendations by the country's Competition Commission. The deal is important for Wal-Mart as it seeks a foothold to tap into Africa's growing consumer class.