With concerns over the state of the US consumer – especially the low- and middle-income shopper base – lingering, analysts were looking forward to today’s Q4 results by America’s largest retailer for some further clarity, and they were not disappointed with what they saw: WalMart reported non-GAAP Q4 EPS of $1.30, beating expectations of $1.29 by one cent. The adjusted number included 8 cents in non-GAAP addbacks to a GAAP number of $1.22.
Total revenue of $130.9 billion, an increase of 1.0% from a year ago, marginally missed estimates of $131.2 billion. Excluding currency WMT reported adjusted revenue was $133.6 billion, an increase of 3.0%. Net sales at Walmart International were $31.0 billion, a decrease of 5.1%, however when excluding currency, net sales were $33.7 billion, an increase of 3.0%.
More important than just the top and bottom line, analysts were expecting Wal-Mart’s same-store sales to increase for the 10th consecutive quarter, putting it on stable footing compared with many other retailers, and WMT did not disappoint, reporting comps of 1.8%, higher than the 1.3% expected, and better than the company’s November forecast of 1.0%-1.5%. In the US, store traffic was up 1.4% Y/Y, while the average ticket increased 0.4%. Meanwhile, e-Commerce sales were up 29%. Sam’s Club comps ex-fuel were 2.4%, more than double the 1.1% expected, while both traffic and average ticket rose 1.2%. Ahead of earnings, there were concerns that a delay in income-tax refunds may push some shopper spending into the following quarter, Barclays said earlier in a research note.
Speaking of Amazon, Walmart reported solid E-commerce growth at its US operations, as sales and GMV increased 29.0% and 36.1%, respectively, including Jet.com and online grocery. As Dow Jones notes, after several quarters of slowing e-commerce growth, Wal-Mart turned the tide last November. Now more change is afoot, following the company’s 2016 purchase of Jet.com Inc. and appointment of its founder, Marc Lore, to lead Wal-Mart’s e-commerce efforts. Mr. Lore has laid off hundreds of the company’s e-commerce workers and made two small acquisitions: outdoor retailer Moosejaw and shoe retailer ShoeBuy.com. Those initiatives show that Mr. Lore is willing to create a stable of Wal-Mart brands, moving away from relying solely on its namesake website to drive online traffic.
Wal-Mart’s traffic has risen for eight quarters thanks to improved store operations and lower prices, but after rocky holiday-sales figures from Macy’s Inc., Kohl’s Corp. and Target Corp., investors are watching to see if Wal-Mart fared better than they did against Amazon.com.
The company generated $11.9 billion in operating cash flow and returned $3.6 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.
Looking at next quarter and the full year, the company expects 1Q EPS 90c-$1.00 vs est. 96c;WMT sees 1Q Wal-Mart U.S. comp. sales up +1%-1.5%, while Sam’s Club Q1 ex-fuel comps should rise by ~1%.
For the full year 2018, WMT expects EPS of $4.20-$4.40, vs Wall Street’s consensus estimate of $4.34.
WMT also announced it was boosting its dividend from $0.50 to $0.51, beating estimates by 1 cent.
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As a result of the better than expected earnings and comps, WMT stock was trading at $71.00 in the premarket session, up 2.35% and approaching its 52 week high of just over $75/share.
WMT’s full Q4 earnings presentation (link)