Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc on Tuesday posted a 16 per cent jump in fourth quarter net profit from the year-ago period as it was boosted by higher international sales.

The Arkansas-based operator of more than 4,500 stores reported earnings of $2.53 billion, or 57 cents per share, for the three months to January 31, compared to $2.19bn, or 49 cents per share, in the year prior.

Sales at the world's largest retailer, which averaged sales of $670m per day last year, climbed 10.7 per cent to $71.07bn from $64.2bn.

Same-store sales climbed 2.7 per cent with like-for-like sales at Wal-Mart outlets, Supercentres and Neighborhood Markets up 3.3 per cent but down 0.3 per cent at the Sam's Club wholesale division.

Wal-Mart said it was pleased with the performance of its international division which it attributed to strong sales in the UK, Canada and Mexico, adding that currency benefits added only $1m to international quarterly operating profit of $757m.

The retailer added for full-year 2002, it earned $8.04bn, or $1.81 per share, versus $6.67bn, or $1.49 a share, in 2001. Sales rose 12.3 per cent to $244.5bn from $217.8bn with same-store sales up 5.1 per cent.

For the year ahead, it sees earnings per share in the range of $2.00 to $2.05, including the costs of expensing stock options and other one-time items. For the first quarter, it sees 40 cents to 42 cents per share, including the one-time items.

President and CEO, Lee Scott, said: "In a challenging retail environment with slowing comparable sales growth, we achieved another year of record sales and earnings.

"Net income exceeded $8bn for the year for the first time and sales grew by almost $27bn."