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    Wal-Mart Reports Earnings Increase in 3Q, Expects Strong Holiday Sales

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. reported a 12.7 percent rise in its third-quarter earnings yesterday and said it expects accelerated sales growth as the holiday season approaches.

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. reported a 12.7 percent rise in its third-quarter earnings yesterday and said it expects accelerated sales growth as the holiday season approaches.

    Wal-Mart earned $2.29 billion, or 54 cents a share, for the three months ended Oct. 31, up from $2.03 billion, or 46 cents a share, a year ago. Net sales rose to $68.5 billion, a 9 percent increase over the third quarter of fiscal 2004. Income from continuing operations was $2.3 billion, a 12.7 percent increase vs. last year.

    In a conference call Wal-Mart raised its earnings outlook for the full year to a range of $2.39 to $2.41 a share and offered a fourth-quarter earnings estimate of 73 cents to 75 cents a share.

    "The economy continues to improve, and we are well positioned for the holidays," said Wal-Mart president and chief executive H. Lee Scott.

    Although Scott said he wasn't satisfied with profit margins and sales growth in the Wal-Mart division, he said he expects sales momentum to accelerate into the holidays, and projected a better Christmas performance than last year.

    The company said that sales at stores open at least a year increased by 1.7 percent across Wal-Mart's U.S. divisions. The Wal-Mart division, which includes discount stores, supercenters, and Neighborhood Markets, showed a same-store sales increase of 1.3 percent. The Sam's Club warehouse store division had a same-store gain of 4.0 percent for the quarter.

    Net sales rose 18.0 percent in the international division. Wal-Mart division sales rose 8.3 percent, and Sam's Club sales were up 5.5 percent.

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