BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores here yesterday said it believes it is raising its retail grocery prices less than its competitors to cope with inflation. In a conference call discussing earnings for the fiscal fourth quarter and year that ended Jan. 31, Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and chief executive officer of the Wal-Mart Stores division, said the company saw cost inflation in “grocery food categories, including dairy, meats and bread. We believe, however, that the rate of inflation pass-along in our stores is less than our competitors in the grocery category, saving customers money and building loyalty.” The company said fourth-quarter operating income at its core U.S. division rose by 5.3%, to $5.3 billion, compared with the fourth quarter of a year ago. Operating income at Sam’s Club was up 2.5%, to $466 million, and international operating income rose 14.5%, to $1.74 billion. Overall net income for the three-month quarter, which ended Jan. 31, was up about 4%, to $4.1 billion, on sales of $106.3 billion, up 8.3%. Sales grew 5% at Wal-Mart Stores, which includes supercenters, discount stores and Neighborhood Markets in the U.S., 6.3% at Sam’s Club and 18.8% in the company’s international division.
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