Walmart 1Q EPS beats guidance, but U.S. comps still a sore spot

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart reported first-quarter earnings that were above the company's guidance, reflecting stability and strength in global operations, according to president and CEO, Mike Duke.

Walmart's net income was $3.4 billion, or 98 cents per diluted share, compared with net income of $3.3 billion, or 87 cents per diluted share. 

Walmart reported net sales for the first quarter of $103.4 billion, an increase of 4.4% from $99.1 billion in the first quarter last year. Net sales for the quarter included a currency exchange rate benefit of $1.3 billion.

Achieving positive same-store sales remains a challenge at Walmart U.S., as this division reported a 1.1% decline due to a decline in traffic. Though this was within the company's guidance range, Duke said there is room for improvement.

"We recognize we still have work to do and comp sales growth remains the greatest priority for me and the entire Walmart U.S. team. The good news is that the plan Bill Simon and his team are executing is gaining traction. We're focused on delivering every day low price and a wide assortment," said Duke.

The company said it expects U.S. same-store sales for the second quarter to range from down 1% to up 1%.

Walmart had more success with its Sam's Club division, which reported that comparable sales, without fuel, increased 4.2% for the same period, which was 120 basis points above guidance. The company is expecting Sam's Club's comp sales, without fuel, for the second quarter to increase between 3% and 5%.

"Our second quarter is under way and we expect our strong sales momentum to continue across grocery, home and apparel," said Brian Cornell, Sam's Club president and CEO.

At Walmart's international operations, net sales were up 11.5% to almost $28 billion, with all countries except Japan showing sales increases. According to the company, the March 11 earthquake and tsunami negatively affected sales in Japan. 

"International remains the key growth driver for our company, and the segment is seeing continued growth through a combination of comp sales and new stores," Duke said. "Mexico, China and Chile had the highest percentage sales increases for the first quarter compared with last year."

For the second quarter, Walmart is expecting to diluted earnings per share to be in the range of $1.05 and $1.10, compared with last year's reported EPS of 97 cents. The company also expects to see continued growth in e-commerce.

"The recent acquisition of Kosmix is now integrated into @Walmartlabs in Silicon Valley, and allows us to expand our capabilities in the online social commerce environment," Duke said. "[Last week], we announced that we are acquiring a minority stake in Yihaodian, one of the leading online retail