Wal-Mart's Japanese partner Seiyu Ltd has reported a loss for 2004, but says it will break even in 2005.

According to a report from the Associated Press, Seiyu's group net loss totalled 12.3 billion yen (US$117 million). An unusually warm winter and a series of typhoons hit sales, while competitive pricing on food and other products had cut profits. Sales totalled 1.032 trillion yen (US$9.8 billion; euro7.6 billion) for the fiscal year, down from 1.07 trillion yen, the report said.

The results published on Tuesday were inline with a forecast produced last month and an improvement on a 54 billion yen loss in the previous year. Seiyu operates more than 400 stores throughout Japan.

Since the partnership started in 2002, Wal-Mart has been gradually introducing its computerized systems and global-supply chain, and opening large-scale supermarkets, still relatively rare in Japan. .

"Seiyu continues to be Wal-Mart's top priority in Japan," said Jeff McAllister, chief operating officer at Wal-Mart International.