Walmart Inc. reported fourth-quarter earnings that fell short of analysts’ estimates and issued a forecast that also missed expectations, joining an illustrious group of underwhelming performances from Target Corp, Kohl’s and Macy’s Inc.
Retail analysts were predicting more positive results during the quarter for Walmart, despite the performance of its peers and the fact that the holiday selling season was shorter than usual. J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Kohl’s last month reported that comparable sales for the two-month holiday period declined 7.5 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. Those results came a day after Macy’s said its comp sales for the holiday period fell 0.6 percent.
Walmart said net income in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31 rose to $4.14 billion, or $1.45 a share, versus earnings of $3.69 billion, or $1.27 a share, in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted earnings per share of $1.38 missed the $1.44 a share forecast by analysts.
Sales rose $141.67 billion, a 2.1 percent increase over $138.8 billion in the year-ago fourth quarter, but below analyst estimates of $142.5 billion. Sales for the year rose 1.9 percent to $520 billion, from $510 billion.
The retailer said comp-store sales in the fourth quarter increased 1.9 percent. Walmart U.S. e-commerce sales shot up 35 percent.
The retail giant said disruption in Chile and a legal matter lowered EPS by about 5 cents. Fiscal year 2020 EPS came in at $5.19, and GAAP, $4.93. The retailer’s guidance for fiscal year 2021 includes net sales growth of about 3 percent in the U.S., comp-store sales growth of at least 2.5 percent, U.S. e-commerce net sales growth of about 30 percent, and EPS in the range of $5 to $5.15.
Target last month said holiday sales during the November and December period grew 1.4 percent, on top of comp sales growth of 5.7 percent last year. The results were below expectations, but the retailer said it was maintaining its previous guidance for fourth-quarter sales growth of 1.4 percent, in line with its performance during the holiday period.
Target maintained its previous guidance ranges for fourth-quarter EPS and said the fourth quarter was on track to be the company’s 11th consecutive quarter of positive comp-store sales. The Minneapolis-based retailer reports complete fourth-quarter results next week.
Walmart today raised its annual dividend to $2.16 a share, marking the 47th consecutive year of dividend increases. The retailer is holding its annual meeting with the investment community today.