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Nov 16, 2017

Wal-Mart shares hit record, makes ‘key’ market share gains in Canada

Wal-Mart is Canada's top food retailer, but Amazon could change that: Charlebois

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CHICAGO - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) reported better-than-expected quarterly sales at established U.S. stores on Thursday and raised its full-year profit forecast, sending its shares to an all-time high in early trading Thursday. The Arkansas-based retailer also demonstrated its desire to wield pricing power in order to gain market share in Canada.

Wal-Mart has recorded more than three straight years of comparable U.S. sales growth, despite slow demand and a tough retail environment that has hurt brick-and-mortar rivals.

Excluding special items, earnings per share came to US$1.00 in the third quarter ended Oct. 31, exceeding the average analyst estimate of 97 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose 2.7 per cent, excluding fuel price fluctuations. That is stronger than market expectations for a rise of 1.7 per cent, according to Consensus Metrix.

Wal-Mart’s total sales in Canada rose 1.9 per cent, while sales at stores that have been open for more than a year rose 1.0 per cent; both decelerated from the second quarter when net sales rose 3.4 per cent and comparable sales rose 2.5 per cent.

“In Canada, customers are responding to the investments we’ve made in price and this is contributing to market-share gains in key traffic-driving categories,” said CEO Doug McMillon in a recorded conference call on Thursday.

“We continued to expand the number of locations where we offer online grocery pickup during the quarter and also launched an e-commerce marketplace which doubled our online assortment and continues our focus on key categories like home and apparel.”

Total online sales soared 50 per cent during the quarter, exceeding growth rates in the industry, but slower than the previous quarter's 60 per cent rise. It added 80 basis points to the third quarter comparable sales gain.

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Wal-Mart also raised its full-year profit forecast. It now expects earnings per share of $4.38 to $4.46 for the fiscal year versus its previous outlook of $4.30 to $4.40.

“We have momentum, and it’s encouraging to see customers responding to our store and e-commerce initiatives,” said McMillon in a press release.

On Wednesday, rival Target Corp's (TGT.N) holiday quarter profit forecast fell short of analysts' expectations, sending its shares down 10 per cent.

Wal-Mart's operating income fell 6.9 per cent to US$4.76 billion. Operating margins fell to 3.9 per cent from 4.4 per cent in the same period a year earlier due to continued investments in making its prices more competitive compared to rivals.

Earlier this year, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma spurred demand at retailers for prevention and recovery materials along with food and grocery items.

Shares of Wal-Mart traded at US$93 before the market opened, up from Wednesday's close of $89.83. It has risen over 30 per cent so far this year.

-- With files from BNN 

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