Walmart loses US$2b in fourth quarter, online sales growth slows

Walmart swung to a loss in the fourth quarter as the sale of its Japan and United Kingdom divisions weighed on its performance.

Sales surged by 7.4 percent in the period that includes the critical holiday shopping season and sales at stores opened at least a year grew by 8.6 percent, up from 6.4 percent in the previous quarter.

However, while online sales gained by 69 percent, that was down from the 80 percent jump in the previous quarter, and it was the slowest growth since the beginning of the pandemic.

And on Thursday the company said that it expects overall sales to moderate this year. Shares dipped by 5 percent before the opening bell.

Walmart has pushed hard into fast and convenient delivery during the pandemic and it signaled that will not slowdown. The company said it’s going to invest nearly $14 billion to increase automation and improve its distribution network. It also said Thursday that it’s raising it’s average hourly wage to more than $15 per hour.

“Change in retail accelerated in 2020, “said CEO Doug McMillon. ”The capabilities we’ve built in previous years put us ahead, and we’re going to stay ahead. Our business is strong, and we’re making it even stronger with targeted investments to accelerate growth.”

Walmart Inc. lost US$2.09 billion, or 74 US cents per share, compared with last year’s US$4.14 billion profit during the fourth quarter, or US$1.45 per share. Net revenue reached US$150.98 billion compared with US$140.6 billion in the year ago period.

Adjusted per-share earnings came to US$1.39, which was well short of the US$1.51 that Wall Street expected, according to a survey by FactSet.

Industry analysts had projected revenue of US$148.5 billion.

Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas said that coronavirus disease-related costs were US$1.1 billion in during the latest quarter.-AP

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