Wal-Mart on Feb. 18 posted a 22% jump in fiscal fourth-quarter net profit to $4.63 billion but its sales were lackluster amid a fragile economic recovery.
Annual profit rose to $14.34 billion from $13.40 billion the previous fiscal year.
Quarterly sales however fell to $113.65 billion, below the $114.56 billion expected by most analysts, reflecting the weakness of U.S. consumption.
With fiscal year 2010 sales of a whopping $405 billion, Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer. It is also the biggest private employer in the United States, with more than 1.4 million workers at home and more than two million globally.
"Wal-Mart's exceptional earnings for the fourth quarter and the full year exceeded our expectations," said Mike Duke, Wal-Mart Stores CEO. "These results reflect the ongoing underlying strength of our business and our strategies to improve shareholder value through our priorities -- delivering growth, leveraging expenses and improving returns."
Duke said Wal-Mart planned to keep expenses growth slower than the rate of sales in the new fiscal year, saying it expected "continued strong growth" from its international operations.
U.S. sales however will be more challenging in the new quarter, he said.
While some thought Wal-Marts earnings and outlook were a bit disappointing, market analyst firm 24/7WallStreet.com said they were "actually excellent given the harsh retail environment in which the company operates. "The fact that Wal-Marts revenue went up at all was a triumph," said Douglas McIntyre at 24/7WallStreet.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010