Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT ) fourth-quarter earnings didn't necessarily blow anybody away, but you can at least marvel at the simplicity of the earnings release. I mean, how many companies do you know that do $285 billion in annual net sales and can summarize their quarter in five pages? And that's including the income statement, the balance sheet, and the cash flow statement -- something that most companies don't even bother to include.
That's not to say that the performance of the world's largest retailer wasn't up to par, either.
Wal-Mart's sales in the fourth quarter, ending Jan. 31, climbed 10.4% to $82.2 billion, driving income from continuing operations up 16.2% to $3.2 billion. Because of the declining share count, earnings per share from continuing operations were up 19% to $0.75 from $0.63 in last year's quarter, beating the analysts' estimate by a penny.
Same-store sales in the U.S. edged up a modest 1.5% for the fourth quarter, bringing fiscal 2005 same-store sales growth down to 3.3% for the year -- toward the low end of the 3% to 5% same-store sales growth the company had forecast at this time last year.
On the whole, it was a pretty decent quarter, but CEO Lee Scott said that the company "can do better" and suggested that certain things should have been done differently. Scott noted that Wal-Mart wasn't aggressive enough in its merchandising plan and said it would have been better off had it "traded lower markdowns for sales."
Wal-Mart broke $10 billion in annual earnings for the first time, with fiscal 2005 earnings up 15.9% to $10.3 billion, or $2.41 per share. The company expects first-quarter earnings of $0.56 to $0.58 per share, with full-year numbers climbing to $2.70-$2.74 per share. The analysts' earnings estimate is $0.58 for the first quarter and $2.73 for the year.
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Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns none of the companies mentioned above.