Wal-Mart sales show global consumer pressure, shares down

Thu Nov 15, 2012 10:38am EST
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By Brad Dorfman

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc reported quarterly sales below analysts' expectations on Thursday, as the struggling global economy pressured shoppers not only in the United States, but globally.

The world's largest retailer also said it has opened internal inquiries or investigations into bribery allegations in Brazil, China and India - adding to its original probe in Mexico.

Wal-Mart shares fell 3.8 percent to $68.62 in morning trading as sales at its U.S. discount stores and Sam's Club unit came in below expectations, fewer customers shopped at its stores in China, and the weak economy hurt results in Japan.

"Whether you're in the U.K. or you're in Argentina, Mexico or China or the U.S. or Canada, I think that all consumers are starting to be under some kind of pressure," Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley said on a conference call with reporters.

Still, the company said sales so far this month were better than expected in the United States as its low-price strategy has drawn consumers worried about their jobs and the costs or gasoline, energy and food.

Total sales rose 3.4 percent to $113.20 billion for the third quarter ended October 31. Analysts, on average, looked for $114.96 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, sales would have been $114.9 billion, the company said.

Sales at Walmart U.S. stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, rose 1.5 percent. The company had forecast an increase of 1 percent to 3 percent, and analysts, on average, looked for a 1.8 percent gain as management expressed optimism during a recent meeting with analysts.

In contrast, rival Target Corp reported a quarterly profit that beat analysts' expectations, luring shoppers with a wider variety of food products and 5 percent discounts for its cardholders.   Continued...

Customers are seen at a Wal-Mart market in Miami, Florida May18, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria