Despite disappointing US sales, Wal-Mart revealed today (14 November) that third quarter earnings increased 11.5%. The world’s largest retailer said that it is planning its most aggressive discount holiday push in an attempt to turn around declining sales trends in its home market.

For the quarter ended 30 October, Wal-Mart posted an income of US$2.65bn, or $0.63 cents a share, up from $2.37bn, or $0.57 a share, for the comparable period of last year. Net sales increased by 12% in the period to $83.5bn, marginally beating Wall Street expectations.

Wal-Mart predicted EPS from continuing operations in the fourth quarter to total $0.88 to $0.92, causing the company’s full year guidance to $2.85 to $2.89 per share. In August, Wal-Mart had forecast full year earnings of $2.88 to $2.95 per share.

“Although sales in the US were softer than we hoped for in the third quarter, there are real opportunities in the fourth quarter to build on the momentum of the aggressive pricing strategy we have implemented in our stores for the holiday season,” chief executive Lee Scott said in a statement. “This season, no one will doubt Wal-Mart’s leadership on price and value,” he said.

Wal-Mart launched its current round of holiday discounting in mid-October by cutting toy prices. This month, the retail giant reduced the cost of electronics and small appliances.

Wal-Mart’s US same-store sales 0.5% in October after gains of 1.3% in September and 2.7% in August. Wal-Mart has also forecast a flat November, the first month in a decade not to report comparable sales growth. Overall, for the third quarter same-store sales were up 1.5%, including 1.5% for Wal-Mart Stores and 1.8% for Sam’s Club.

Wal-Mart expects same-store sales to be up 1% to 2% in the fourth quarter, chief financial officer Tom Schoewe said.

In the US, the slowing economy and high petrol prices were blamed for the slowdown.