How Horsemeat and Internal Emails Sent Wal-Mart Lower Today

What's worse than a scandal involving horsemeat and "beef" Bolognese pasta sauce?

Here's what: a scandal involving horsemeat and "beef" Bolognese past sauce and a scandal involving financially sensitive internal emails leaked to the media.

Welcome to Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT  ) life today.

With an hour left in the trading session, shares of the retail giant have led the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) into negative territory. But while the blue-chip index is down 45 points, or 0.32%, shares of the Bentonville, Ark.-based company are off 3%.

What happened at Wal-Mart?
The world's largest retailer has found itself in the middle of Europe's horsemeat scandal. As my colleague Matt Thalman discussed earlier, its British arm Asda discovered evidence of horsemeat in a "beef" Bolognese pasta sauce it sells. In a statement published on its website, the company apologized to customers for "any worry, upset or inconvenience" and said that it's "moving swiftly to remove products from sale as a precaution even when there is no direct evidence that one of our products is affected."

More concerning on the financial front, Bloomberg News has published internal emails suggesting a heightened level of internal concern over February sales.

"In case you haven't seen a sales report these days, February [month-to-date] sales are a total disaster," Wal-Mart's vice president of finance and logistics wrote at the beginning of this week. He went on to term it the "worst start to a month I have seen in my seven years with the company." Another executive asked: "Where are all the customers? And where's their money?"

Of course, it's easy to take statements like these out of context when we don't have the rest of the emails to read. At the same time, however, these seemingly unqualified pronouncements are certainly a cause for concern among current Wal-Mart shareholders.

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