Earnings: Hewlett-Packard |Wal-Mart | Home Depot

Hewlett-Packard Q1 Earns Rise 26 Percent

SAN FRANCISCO - (AP) - Hewlett-Packard Co.'s (HPQ) first-quarter profit jumped 26 percent as the company benefited from higher sales of laptop computers, printers and printing supplies during a robust holiday spending season.

The company on Tuesday said it earned $1.55 billion, or 55 cents per share, for the quarter ended Jan. 31, compared with $1.23 billion, or 42 cents per share, for the same period last year.

The Palo Alto-based computer and printer maker said revenue for the period was $25.1 billion, compared with $22.7 billion during the same quarter last year.

Excluding one-time charges, HP said it earned $1.8 billion, or 65 cents per share, beating analyst forecasts.

Analysts were expecting HP to earn, on average, 62 cents per share on $24.3 billion in revenue, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

Wal-Mart Profit Rises, Beats Views

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - (AP) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) said Tuesday its fourth-quarter profit rose 8.8 percent and enough to beat analysts' expectations.

The world's largest retailer said profit for the period ending Jan. 31 was $3.94 billion, or 95 cents per share, up $3.621 billion, or 87 cents from one year prior. Even with a $98 million tax benefit worth 2 cents per share, Wal-Mart's earnings beat the 90 cents per share forecast by analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

The company had fourth-quarter sales of $98.09 billion, up 10.9 percent from a year before but below the $99.95 billion forecast by analysts.

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For the fiscal year, Wal-Mart sales rose 11.7 percent to $344.99 billion, from $308.95 billion. The company had a profit from continuing operations of $12.18 billion, up from $11.41 billion a year before. The company's per-share earnings for the fiscal year were $2.92, compared to $2.72 a year before.

Wal-Mart has struggled to increase sales at stores open at least a year and is working to better tailor its merchandise mix to the clientele of specific stores. It also spent the year fighting media attacks by union-backed groups and is court challenges, including a gender-based discrimination lawsuit federal court in San Francisco.

Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott said the company's fourth-quarter results give Wal-Mart momentum.

"I am encouraged by (Wal-Mart workers') achievements as we head into the current fiscal year. Our company's performance for the fiscal year was helped by a strong fourth quarter," Scott said. "It's a reaffirmation of the proposition that's synonymous with Wal-Mart saving people money so they can live better,"

Wal-Mart said it expects its same-store sales to increase by 1 percent to 3 percent in its first quarter, and first-quarter per-share earnings of between 68 cents and 71 cents. For fiscal 2008, Wal-Mart expects per-share earnings of between $3.15 and $3.23.

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Home Depot Sales Fall As Housing Sector Hurts

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Home Depot Inc. (HD) posted a 28 percent drop in fourth quarter profit on Tuesday as the weak U.S. housing market depressed sales at its retail stores.

The retailer, which last month named Frank Blake chairman and chief executive after Robert Nardelli resigned, said it would give its financial outlook for the year at its February 28 analyst meeting.

Earnings in the fourth quarter ended January 28 fell to $925 million, or 46 cents a share, from $1.3 billion, or 60 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding expenses of 4 cents a share tied to executive severance, profit came to 50 cents a share in the latest period, the company said.

Analysts on average expected earnings of 51 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Total sales rose 4 percent to $20.3 billion, below analysts estimates of $20.8 billion.

Retail store sales fell 2 percent to $17.4 billion, while sales at stores open at least a year fell 6.6 percent. The number of customer transactions and the average purchase both fell.

Sales at Home Depot Supply, which distributes building materials and other products to professionals, rose 64 percent to $2.9 billion, helped by acquisitions.

Blake, named to Home Depot's top job last month when Nardelli departed amid a furor over executive pay, said in a statement that 2006 retail results were "disappointing," and added that the company would look to improve its market share this year.

Home Depot, which faces more competition as rival Lowe's Cos. Inc. (LOW) moves into big U.S. cities, said last week that it was considering a sale, spin-off or initial public offering of the supply business in order to focus on its retail stores, where sales have slumped in the past year as U.S. home sales weakened.

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