Indicative of the tough retail environment, management issued lower-than-expected full-year earnings between $5.10 and $5.45 a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had estimated net income of $5.54 a share over fiscal 2014.
The company expects net sales to grow at the low-end of a 3% to 5% forecast.
In the three months ended in January, the Bentonville, Ark.-based business saw comparable store sales drop 0.4%, a result attributed to a series of winter storms and the reduction to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the government's food-stamp benefits.
In response to sluggish traffic, MKM Partners reiterated its "neutral" rating and $76 price target.
"Extreme winter weather has had some impact, but we believe other factors, most of which show no signs of abating, also contributed to the weak performance. The 11/1/13 cuts in SNAP assistance had a 40 basis-point bigger impact than had been anticipated, and contributed to a low-single-digit drop in grocery comps. We believe Walmart captures 18%, or $14 billion, of total SNAP spending and expect the cuts to remain a headwind until they are cycled next fall," wrote MKM managing director Patrick McKeever in a report.
Over fiscal 2014, McKeever anticipates a slight increase in same-store sales, but lowered full-year EPS to $5.26 from $5.60, reflecting a lower gross margin assumption. In the first quarter ending April, the firm expects flat comps and earnings of $1.15 a share.
BMO Capital Markets reiterated the retailer as "market perform," but cut its target price to $79 from $81. Analyst Wayne Hood reduced fiscal 2014 EPS to $5.30 from $5.44 and fiscal 2015 EPS to $5.85 from $6.03.
On lower comps, Hood said, "The rate of the decline in traffic accelerated from 3Q13 (down 0.4%) and was disappointing to us given the magnitude of impressions and promotions that were underway in the 4Q13. 1Q14 US Walmart comp-store sales are expected to be about flat with last year's 1.4% decline implying a sequential deterioration from 4Q13 in the two-year rate from a 0.6% increase to a 1.4% decline."
Deutsche Bank maintained a "hold" position, but reduced its price target to $76 from $77.
"We see limited downside for WMT shares as the company benefits from being a preferred defensive holding in a tough overall tape. For material upside, however, we believe WMT needs to (1) reduce capital spend, returning more cash to shareholders, (2) continue to grow its online efforts faster than the market place, becoming a clear substitute to shopping at Amazon (AMZN), (3) improve distribution capabilities that allow for further acceleration of small stores in the U.S., and (4) be a consistent market share taker in grocery and other consumable categories," wrote analysts in the report.
One analyst who remained bullish was Jefferies' Daniel Binder who kept a "buy" rating and price target of $87.
"CEO Doug McMillon appears ready to get this business moving in the right direction and we think investors should stick with this name a bit longer to see what he can do," wrote Binder in the report.
McMillon assumed the role of CEO of Wal-Mart on Feb. 1, succeeding Mike Duke. McMillon had previously worked as president and CEO of Wal-Mart International.
"McMillon noted there was much to achieve this year, and this will inevitably include "change." While not a terribly specific comment, it was not a casual one either. We expect to hear more on this as the year unfolds," wrote Binder.
"Out of the gate, we already heard a plan today that included an acceleration in small format store expansion. We also heard about greater discipline in its EDLP strategy, a culture of getting cost out, focus on getting product mix right (an effort already showing some success), accelerated investment in eCommerce, focus on improving Brazil, Mexico and China and more cross-border cooperation, which Mr. McMillon fostered while he headed up International."
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TheStreet Ratings team rates WAL-MART STORES INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. The team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate WAL-MART STORES INC (WMT) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, notable return on equity, growth in earnings per share, increase in net income and increase in stock price during the past year. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow."
- You can view the full analysis from the report here: WMT Ratings Report