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Wal-Mart Q4 Profit Falls, but Beats Wall St. View


Bentonville, Ark. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Tuesday its fourth-quarter profit fell 7.4%, hurt by the strong dollar and a charge from settling a labor lawsuit. Profit fell to $3.7 billion for the quarter ended Jan. 31, from $4.0 billion a year ago. The results beat Wall Street expectations.

Net sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2009 were $107.9 billion, up 1.7% from $106.2 billion in the fourth quarter last year.

"Our performance relative to competitors was exceptionally strong in the fourth quarter and throughout the year. We expect this momentum to continue," chief executive Mike Duke said in a statement.

During the quarter, Wal-Mart's U.S. sales rose 6%, to $71.46 billion. Sam's Club warehouse sales were flat at $11.84 billion. Same-store sales at U.S. locations rose 2.8% overall.

In the international division, sales fell 8.4% to $24.7 billion. On a constant currency basis, international sales rose 9% in the fourth quarter, the company said.

Net sales for the fiscal year were $401.244 billion, an increase of 7.2% over fiscal year 2008.

Duke said Wal-Mart finished the year with a strong balance sheet, record free cash flow of $11.6 billion and "great inventory management."

Executives said on a pre-recorded call that capital spending this year is projected to be $12.5 billion to $13.5 billion, lower than the company's previous projection of $13 billion to $14.5 billion. The company also said it plans to start buying back shares after temporarily suspending the program in the fourth quarter amid economic uncertainties.

Wal-Mart had announced in December that it will pay up to $640 million to settle 63 lawsuits over wage-and-hour violations, ending the vast majority of such cases against it. The retailer, which has more than 1.4 million employees, said how much it pays will depend on how many claims are submitted. Each settlement still must be approved by a trial court.

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