Walmart Sees Online Sales Up 40%, Total Sales to Top $500 Billion

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At its investors’ day conference in Bentonville, Arkansas, today, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) will say that it expects online sales to rise by 40% year over year, well above the 15.5% growth the retailing giant posted in its 2017 fiscal year ended in January. At that rate, total online sales would rise from an estimated $15.82 billion last year to more than $22 billion.

That’s a long way behind Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), which racked up about $136 billion in sales last year. But does Walmart need to match Amazon’s total or does the brick-and-mortar giant only need to continue beating Amazon’s growth rate?

Walmart projects fiscal year 2018 sales will rise at least 3% year over year, from $485.9 billion last year to just over $500 billion. Same-store sales and e-commerce sales are tabbed to drive growth.

Doug McMillon, Walmart’s CEO, said:

We have good momentum in the business, we’re executing our strategy and moving with speed to win with the customer, who is more connected than ever and embracing tools that will save them both time and money. We’re combining the accessibility of our stores with eCommerce to provide new and exciting ways for customers to shop.

The company also revealed a new $20 billion share buyback program to be completed over the next two years. Given the firm’s updated guidance for full-year earnings per share in a new, higher range of $4.30 to $4.40 a share, sweetening the offer for shareholders with a buyback is another shot across Amazon’s bow.

Walmart is, in effect, highlighting the difference between a dividend-paying stock that is also growing its business at a very good clip and Amazon, which not only does not pay a dividend, but has shown little interest in posting a profit. Amazon shareholders are banking on high growth for a return while Walmart delivers both a dividend and growth.

Amazon has delivered a total return of 32% for the year to date, compared to Walmart’s 18.7%. Buying back $20 billion worth of shares boosts shareholder value even more (theoretically) and given Walmart’s relatively modest capital spending plans for this fiscal year and the next, the company could conceivably pay for everything by just meeting its growth targets.

Shareholders were pleased with what they heard. Walmart’s stock traded up about 4.5% earlier this morning and traded most recently at $83.78, a gain of around 4%. Shares posted a new 52-week high of $84.12 this morning, against a 52-week low of $65.28. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $83.49.