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Wal-Mart 4Q profit rises 9.8 per cent contradicting all expert estimates

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported its fourth-quarter profit grew 9.8 per cent, and issued a bullish forecast for the world’s largest retailer. Profit for the period ended Jan. 31 was US$3.94 billion, or 95 cents per share, compared to $3.59 billion, or 87 cents, one year ago. Even with a $98-million tax benefit worth two cents per share, Wal-Mart’s earnings beat the 90-cents-per-share forecast by analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

CEO Lee Scott said Wal-Mart’s flagship U.S. business helped push the figures. He attributed the growth in part to the new strategy of discounting hot items like electronics and holiday toys, while continuing to tailor stores more approximately to local demographics.

Wal-Mart U.S., which is 3,443-store strong, saw quarterly sales grow 7 per cent. Sales at the smaller Sam’s Club division rose four per cent, while Wal-Mart international jumped 30 per cent, helped by acquisitions in Brazil and Central America.

For the full year, Wal-Mart sales rose 11.7 per cent to $344.99 billion, from $308.95 billion. The company had a profit from continuing operations of $12.18 billion, up from $11.41 billion a year before. The company’s per-share earnings for the fiscal year were $2.92, compared to $2.72 a year before.

For fiscal 2008, Wal-Mart expects per-share earnings of between $3.15 and $3.23.

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