Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, today [Thursday] reported fourth-quarter profits up by 11% to US$2.7bn or 63 cents per share.

Sales during the period under review rose by 12.2% to $74.5bn, with same-store sales rising by 4.8%.

The quarter ended 31 January was boosted by shoppers giving and spending Christmas vouchers and by cold weather, which led to improved clothing sales.

Income from continuing operations after minority interest and taxes for the twelve months increased 13.3% to $8.9bn or $2.03 earnings per share, up from $7.8bn or $1.76 earnings per share in the same prior year period.

On 23 May 2003 Wal-Mart completed the sale of McLane Company, Inc., then a wholly-owned subsidiary, to Berkshire Hathaway. McLane was accounted for as a discontinued operation.

Wal-Mart’s international division returned an operating profit of $862m for the most fourth quarter, an increase of 15.2% compared with $748m in the similar period in the previous year. It showed an operating profit of $2.370bn for the twelve month period, up 18.6% compared with $1.998bn in the similar period in the prior year.