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Wal Mart reports 3.02 bln dlr net income

NEW YORK, May 14 – The world\’s biggest retailer Wal-Mart reported on Thursday a 3.02-billion-dollar net income for the first quarter of 2009, the same as a year ago.

Proving it could weather the economic downturn markedly better than its competitors, Wal-Mart reported first quarter net sales for the first quarter (February to April) as 93.4 billion dollars, a decrease of only 0.6 percent from the first quarter last year.

Wal-Mart said in a statement that its earnings per share for the first quarter of fiscal year 2010 were 0.77 dollars, which was at the high end of the company\’s own guidance of 0.72 to 0.77 dollars.

The store earned 0.76 dollars per share in the first quarter last year.

Officials said they were satisfied by the margins, coming on the back of robust sales despite a sharp slowdown.

"These results were achieved in the face of a very challenging global economy," said Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke.

"When economic conditions improve, we believe customers who shop Wal-Mart today will stay with us, because of the business improvements we\’re making and continue to make," he added.

"Across the company, we are building our brand by reducing costs, sharpening our merchandising and updating our stores."

Wal-Mart is the biggest private employer in the United States. It has more than 1.4 million workers at home and more than two million globally.

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Aside from the United States, its overseas operations are in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua and Britain.

"As a result of the increasing shift to value, (customers) have long term loyalty to the Wal-Mart brand because we save them money," said Duke.

US government data showed Wednesday that retail sales had dropped 0.4 percent in April, suggesting ongoing caution among consumers in the face of recession despite massive government recovery efforts.

The April decline surprised most analysts, who had expected sales would be unchanged from March.

The report trampled on the "green shoots" of hope the economic downturn may be bottoming that had sprung up as a result of recent better-than-expected economic and company data.

Earlier this year, at a time when companies are laying off workers to in response to the economic crisis, Wal-Mart said it created about 63,000 jobs worldwide this year, including more than 33,000 in the United States.

Wal-Mart\’s reported in February that its net income for the whole year rose five percent to 13.4 billion dollars from 12.73 billion dollars the previous period.

The US Commerce Department meanwhile last month reported that consumer spending, a main driver of economic activity, reversed course in March with a 0.2 percent drop after surprising gains at the beginning of the year.

The renewed caution by consumers came as overall personal incomes fell 0.3 percent, a figure worse than expectations for a 0.2 percent drop.

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