• Net income rises 3%
  • Sales rise 4.4%, buoyed by international

Wal-Mart Stores' international operations continues to be the growth engine for the company as the retailer's US division posted its eighth consecutive quarter of falling comparable-store sales.

The world's largest retailer said today (17 May) that first-quarter net income was up 3% during the three months ended 30 April to US$3.3bn. Consolidated net sales rose 4.4% to $103.4bn.

Wal-Mart's international sales were up 11.5% to almost $28bn, offsetting weaker sales growth in the US. Operating income from Wal-Mart's overseas operations was up 1.2% at $1.09bn.

The retailer's US sales did grow 0.6% over the quarter to $62.7bn. Operating income rose 0.8% to $4.6bn.

However, Wal-Mart's comparable-store sales in the US fell 1.1%. The retailer attributed the decline to falling traffic, adding that the average ticket was up on the prior year. However, Wal-Mart's US grocery and health and wellness categories posted positive comparable sales.

The retailer is forecasting that US comparable-store sales could range from a fall of 1% to an increase of 1% in the second quarter.

Commenting on the results, Wal-Mart US president and CEO Bill Simon said: "We are monitoring the economic environment carefully, as significant changes in gas prices and inflation during the quarter will influence our actual performance."

Internationally, all countries aside from Japan showing growth. Wal-Mart said the March earthquake and tsunami negatively affected sales in Japan.

Group president and CEO Mike Duke said that Mexico, China and Chile had the highest percentage sales increases compared to last year.

The retailer took a minority stake in Chinese online retailer Yihaodian late last week, and Duke said that the retailer sees tremendous opportunities to grow the channel. "We expect ongoing activity in the e-commerce area around the world," he said.