Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, posted fourth-quarter earnings yesterday that beat Wall Street expectations, suggesting the profit-sapping...

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Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, posted fourth-quarter earnings yesterday that beat Wall Street expectations, suggesting the profit-sapping impact of holiday discounting was less than some analysts feared.

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Wal-Mart said its profits rose 16.2 percent for the November-January period, beating Wall Street forecasts by a penny a share. Its earnings for the full year topped $10 billion for the first time.

Lee Scott, Wal-Mart’s president and chief executive, acknowledged in a prerecorded call that the company made some mistakes. But he did offer a bullish outlook for 2005 for his company’s prospects based on an expectation that the economy will continue to improve.

Wal-Mart earned $3.2 billion, or 75 cents a share, for the three months ended Jan. 31, up from $2.7 billion, or 63 cents a share, a year ago. Wal-Mart’s overall revenue rose 10.4 percent to $83.0 billion from $75.2 billion a year earlier.

For the year, Wal-Mart earned $10.3 billion, or $2.41 a share, up from $9.1 billion, or $2.07 a share, a year earlier. The company had overall revenue of $288.2 billion for the year, up from $258.7 billion a year earlier.

Wal-Mart’s shares rose 12 cents to $52.72 yesterday.


Nextel

Tax expenses hurt provider’s earnings

Wireless provider Nextel, which has agreed to be acquired by Sprint, reported a 26 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings on higher tax expenses yesterday, but still outperformed Wall Street estimates.

The company reported a $232 million income tax provision in the fourth quarter, nearly $200 million more than the tax liability in the year-ago quarter.

As a result, the company earned $468 million, or 41 cents a share in the just-completed quarter, compared to a $631 million, or 55 cents per share, profit in the year-ago quarter.

Still, the 41-cent per-share earnings, beat the estimate of Wall Street analysts, who predicted 39 cents.

Quarterly revenue increased 19 percent, thanks in part to a record increase in subscribers. The company added 955,000 subscribers in the quarter, including 595,000 to its flagship Nextel brand and 360,000 to its prepaid Boost Mobile Service.

The company increased its subscriber base 22 percent in 2004, from 13.3 million at the end of 2003 to 16.2 million at the end of 2004.

For the year, profits doubled, from $1.45 billion, or $1.34 a share, in 2003 to $3.0 billion, or $2.62 a share, in 2004.

Nextel shares fell 59 cents, or 2 percent, to close at $28.59 yesterday.


Target

Expectations beaten by a penny a share

Discounter Target’s fourth-quarter profit inched up only 0.1 percent, the company said yesterday, but still beat analyst expectations by a penny a share and capped a year when earnings soared almost 77 percent.

Target earned $825 million, or 91 cents per share, in the three months ended Jan. 29, up from $823 million, or 90 cents per share, during the year-ago period. Excluding results from the Marshall Field’s and Mervyn’s department-store chains that Target sold last year, earnings rose 12 percent.

Without the tax benefits of the department-store sales, Target said it earned 90 cents per share — a penny ahead of analysts’ expectations.

Revenue rose 11.1 percent to $15.2 billion from $13.7 billion a year earlier. Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, rose 5.4 percent

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For the full year, Target earned $3.2 billion, or $3.51 per share, up from $1.8 billion, or $1.97 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 11.5 percent to $46.8 billion from $42.0 billion a year earlier.

Target’s shares rose $1.07 to $50.14 yesterday.

Compiled from The Associated Press