Walmart rides soaring holiday demand to beat same-store sales estimates

Feb 18 (Reuters) - Walmart Inc beat expectations for same-store sales growth on Thursday, as an early start to the holiday season and a boost from stimulus money late in the fourth quarter propped up demand for electronics, toys and groceries.

Walmart, which employs 1.5 million people in the United States, also said it was raising wages for its workers in the country to more than $15 per hour on average.

Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year surged 8.6%, excluding fuel, in the three months ended Jan. 31, well above analysts’ expectations of a 5.6% rise, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Online sales rose 69% in the quarter, blowing past a 35% increase in the year-earlier period, but slower than a 79% surge in the third quarter.

The retailer has relied on its scale and strengthening online presence during the pandemic to attract new customers looking for a one-stop shop for their daily needs.

Operating income rose 3.1% to $5.49 billion in the quarter, while adjusted earnings were $1.39 per share.

Walmart also said it was expecting fiscal 2022 net sales to grow in low-single digits, with earnings per share estimated to be flat to slightly up. (Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)