Wal-Mart warned today (14 August) that its full-year profits would not meet its initial targets thanks to consumers worldwide tightening their belts.

The US retail giant, which operates in 14 countries worldwide, cut its earnings per share guidance from US$3.15 to $3.23 a share to $3.05-3.13.

The profit warning belied a set of first-half results that showed sales had risen 8.6% to $177.4bn and that operating profit was up 5.2% to $10.1bn.

“Although some people will report that Wal-Mart has had record sales and earnings, our underlying operating performance this quarter is not what we expect of ourselves, and not what our shareholders expect of us,” said Wal-Mart president and CEO Lee Scott.

“Many customers around the world continue to be under economic pressure and they expect Wal-Mart to be their advocate,” Scott added. “We will continue to be the undisputed price leader, from Asda in the United Kingdom, to every market in the United States.”

CFO Tom Schoewe added: “The company’s current earnings guidance reflects the need to continue to improve our underlying operating performance. This guidance also reflects the economic trends that have developed in many of our major markets.”

The warning from Wal-Mart came just hours after Japanese retailer Seiyu, in which the US group owns a majority stake, has warned that it expects to post yet another annual loss in 2007.