Walmart hikes diviend as profits rise

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New York - Global retailing giant Walmart announced a higher dividend for 2014 as fourth quarter earnings showed strong growth helped by a lower tax rate.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. raised its fiscal 2014 dividend by 18 percent to $1.88 a share, compared to $1.59 for the full year 2013, ended January 31.

Net earnings for the fiscal fourth quarter were up 8.6 percent over a year earlier to $5.61 billion, on the strength of a 3.9 percent rise in revenues to $127.1 billion.

Earnings per share were $1.67, compared to $1.50 a year earlier.

For the full year, net earnings hit $17.0 billion, up from $15.8 billion in fiscal 2012. Global revenue topped $466 billion.

The company said it benefited in the fourth quarter from a lower than expected effective tax rate, which fell to 27.7 percent from 30.9 percent a year earlier.

The company forecast more growth for 2014, with earnings per share in the $5.20-$5.40 range compared to $5.02 last year.

“Walmart is operating in markets that offer continued opportunity for growth, both in our stores and online,” said chief executive Mike Duke.

“With our core Walmart US business operating so well, our investments in e-commerce and our international markets focused on growth and improving returns, we are truly the best positioned global retailer,” Duke said.

“Fiscal year 2013 was the first year of our five-year plan to reduce operating expenses as a percentage of sales by at least 100

basis points,” said chief financial officer Charles Holley.

“We made progress toward our five-year goal, reducing expenses for the year by 14 basis points. Walmart US led this effort.” - Sapa-AFP

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