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Walmart Cuts Profit Forecast: We Will 'Test a Lot and Fail a Lot'

 front facade of a walmart supercenter with corporate logo in white and gold on gray background wall
(Gary Arbach/Dreamstime)

Tuesday, 16 October 2018 01:32 PM

Walmart Inc.’s chief executive officer on Tuesday urged investors to rethink the company’s business, touting its various tech investments to grow online sales at a time it is battling Amazon.com for market share.

The retailer also lowered its earnings forecast for the year and said its e-commerce growth next year would be slower than in the current fiscal year that ends in January.

“I want to challenge your thinking about Walmart,” Chief Executive Doug McMillon told the Bentonville, Arkansas, company’s annual investor meeting, which was webcast. “We are getting to reimagine retail and our business... expect us to test a lot and fail a lot,” he said.

McMillon highlighted the company’s patents in last-mile delivery, biometrics and augmented reality, as well as investments in machine learning in areas like merchandising, blockchain to improve food safety and traceability. He also cited pickup towers in stores to boost online sales and various e-commerce delivery options.

Investors shrugged off the guidance and Walmart shares (WMT.N), which fell over 2 percent in pre-market trading, reversed course to rise about $2, or 2 percent, at $95.78 per share near midday.

Walmart’s earnings next year will be eroded by its $16 billion acquisition of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart in May, its largest-ever deal, to compete with Amazon.com (AMZN.O) in an important growth market. The company at the time had indicated the deal would lead to a per-share earnings hit of 25 to 30 cents this fiscal year and 60 cents next fiscal year.

The lower forecasts for earnings and online sales come after Walmart posted its best quarterly U.S. sales growth in a decade in August, helped by lower unemployment and tax cuts that boosted consumers’ spending power.

Walmart now expects to earn between $4.65 and $4.80 per share for fiscal 2019, down from an earlier forecast of $4.90 to $5.05 per share.

Walmart also estimates a 35 percent growth rate for its online business in the year ending in January 2020, against expectations for 40 percent growth in the current year.

The company has made several efforts over the past year to boost online traffic. These include a website redesign, more online grocery offerings and acquisition of fashion brands to improve its appeal to millennial shoppers, who have typically avoided purchasing on the retailer’s websites.

Walmart has been on an acquisition spree in the U.S. online fashion space, buying online lingerie retailer Bare Necessities last week after purchasing plus-sized clothing startup Eloquii a week earlier.

Over the years, Walmart has worked to use physical locations as distribution points for online orders of groceries and other goods in order to retain buyers who increasingly expect quick, cheap shipping.

With a steady rise in online shopping, Walmart’s e-commerce sales growth has been outstripping brick-and-mortar sales, leading the company to slash new store openings. The retailer plans to open fewer than 10 U.S. stores in the next fiscal year.

For fiscal 2020, Walmart expects comparable sales growth of 2.5 percent to 3 percent. That follows expected growth of about 3 percent this year, which would be the fastest pace since 2008.

Overall sales growth during fiscal 2020 is likely to be 3 percent or more but could be negatively impacted by the sale of operations in Brazil and a planned reduction in tobacco sales at Walmart-owned warehouse chain Sam’s Club.

Walmart also expects earnings to decline by a low-single-digit percentage range compared with fiscal 2019 due to the Flipkart deal. Excluding the impact, it is expected to rise by a low-to mid-single digit percentage range.

© 2019 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Walmart Inc.’s chief executive officer on Tuesday urged investors to rethink the company’s business, touting its various tech investments to grow online sales at a time it is battling Amazon.com for market share.
walmart, earnings, shares, forecast
Tuesday, 16 October 2018 01:32 PM
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