In a difficult year for retailers, who were dogged by economic recession, US discount behemoth Wal-Mart registered Q4 sales and earnings that rate it as the world's biggest company in terms of sales.

In dethroning oil giant Exxon-Mobil, Wal-Mart posted Q4 sales up 13.5% to US$64.21bn and full year sales up 13.8% to US$217.8bn. Aggressive discounting saw net income rise 6% for the year, from US$6.295bn to US$6.671bn, lifting earnings per share to US$1.49 from US$1.4 a year earlier.

The company's international operations also performed well, with a 19.2% increase in operating profit to US$584m.

Lee Scott, president and CEO, commented "While the slow economy caused many companies to report negative or flat sales growth, we gained share in the difficult consumer market and grew our revenues."

Arkansas-based Wal-Mart expects earnings for the year of US$1.74 to US$1.76 a share, up from its previous forecast for earnings of US$1.71 a share.