Skip to main content

Wal-Mart shares vision with shareholders


Mike Duke may be relatively new in his role as president and CEO of Wal-Mart, but he shared a familiar message of continuous improvement and opportunity for growth as he addressed shareholders at the company’s star-studded annual meeting this morning.

In his first appearance before shareholders since being name CEO last fall, Duke asserted that Wal-Mart’s best days are still ahead of it, despite the fact that the company surpassed annual sales of $400 billion last year and concerns that improving economic conditions will eventually cause consumers Wal-Mart gained as a result of the recession to leave the fold.

“We have more opportunities today than ever in our history, and it is because of this new normal,” Duke said, referring to what he argued is an enduring shift on the part of consumers to place more emphasis on value. “We must seize this moment in time. All of us must broaden and accelerate what we are doing well. It means having a greater sense of urgency.”

The only actual “news” to come out of the meeting was the revelation by Wal-Mart CFO Tom Schoewe that the company reauthorized a $15 billion share repurchase program due to the fact that $11.5 billion of an existing $15 billion program has been expended. The announcement is due to the fact that Wal-Mart has become a cash-generating machine that serves 200 million customers weekly at a global network of nearly 8,000 stores.

Those cash-generating capabilities enabled the company to buy back $11.5 billion worth of stock during the past two years and pay dividends totaling $7.5 billion.

“Your balance sheet today is stronger than a year ago. How many companies whether here in the United States or internationally could make that statement?” Schoewe asked. “At the end of the day the story is clear, you work for a great company.”

Such comments are typical at the meeting and tend to be directed at the thousands of associates in attendance at the event. They travel from throughout the United States and the world, and while the meeting can be short on new information for the 70 media members and an equally large contingent of bankers and analysts in attendance, the meeting isn’t really geared toward their interests. Rather, the event is a celebration and those who attend return to stores and clubs with some impressive stories to tell about the entertainers they saw and with a new sense of enthusiasm. This year’s event featured Miley Cyrus, American Idol Kris Allen, Smoky Robinson and Ben Stiller who served as emcee.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds