NEW YORK — The international segment is Wal-Mart’s newest and largest business, making up 19 percent of sales, said Joseph Fitzsimmons, senior vice president of finance and treasurer at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., during a presentation at a Banc of America investor conference on Monday in San Francisco.

Fitzsimmons also said carving out Wal-Mart’s international sales as a separate business would make it number 25 on the Fortune 500 in terms of sales.

“So the issue isn’t that we don’t have a substantial international exposure, the issue is that Wal-Mart is just a big company,” he said.

Fitzsimmons also disclosed that international is Wal-Mart’s second most profitable business, generating 14 percent of operating profits.

The treasurer said when he joined Wal-Mart, the discounter was a “small, $63 billion company in Bentonville, Ark., and through no effort of my own, we climbed to $256 billion.”

While Fitzsimmons touched on other issues, such as the firm’s belief that technology doesn’t improve productivity unless it is applied, the most attention-grabbing tidbits were about the global positioning of Wal-Mart:

The retailer operates in 10 countries, including a minority ownership in Japanese retailer Seiyu. Portfolio diversity includes a high-end grocery store in Mexico called Superama, and ASDA, an apparel retailer in the U.K. It also operates a neighborhood market located underground in Shenzhen, China. Other grocery operations are located in Puerto Rico and São Paulo, Brazil. In Mexico City, the discounter operates a “softlines department store, and this is one of those things that most people don’t know, which is quite successful down there,” Fitzsimmons said.

His presentation included a slide show, which contained a picture of a business Fitzsimmons said was one that “hardly anyone knows. We’re actually the largest sit-down restaurant chain in Latin America, with our Mexican Vips concept.”

He said Wal-Mart remains focused on the U.S. market. But in comparison with its overseas operations, “we have a much bigger presence,” Fitzsimmons said.

— Vicki M. Young

This story first appeared in the September 22, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.