Is Walmart Spending Too Much to Save You Money?

In this segment of thisMotley Fool Money podcast, host Chris Hill and Fool analysts Jason Moser, Matt Argersinger, and Ron Gross discuss the latest quarterly results from the world’s largest retailer.

Walmart(NYSE:WMT) beat on revenue and earnings, and its domestic online sales rose by 33% — which would be more impressive if it weren’t pouring quite so much money into its efforts to win those sales and if its margins weren’t feeling the pinch. They talk about Walmart’s strategy, its international plans, and whether the stock is a value or a value trap right now.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on May 18, 2018.

Chris Hill: First quarter profits and revenue both came in higher than expected. Online sales in the U.S. up 33%. But, Ron, they are spending a lot of money.

Ron Gross: Yeah. It was mixed. You nailed it on the head. Beating expectations on the top and bottom line, that’s great. Comp sales up 2.1%, also strong. Online sales, last quarter, they actually disappointed on the online sales growth, and the stock took a slam. Now, up 33%. Really good to see, and that’s important. Online grocery also showing good, strong growth numbers as well. But, margins are under pressure. We’ve got higher freight costs, we’ve got price cuts to remain competitive, and that’s taking a bite out of profit. Operating income was actually down in the U.S. by about 3%. So, a mixed bag overall.

Hill: They’re also, Matty, obviously going to be spending a lot of money in India.

Matt Argersinger: That’s right, a ton of money. $17 billion, I think?

Hill: Something like that. Flipkart doesn’t come cheap.

Argersinger: That’s right. I wonder, though, if Walmart is focusing too much on what they’re trying to do in India and elsewhere, at the expense of their domestic operation. I know we can tout the online growth a lot. But they still have this tremendous store base here in the U.S. that’s responsible for still 80% of their global revenue. And I wonder if they’re taking the eye off the ball a little bit there.

Hill: It seems though, Ron, like, Doug McMillon, you look at him as CEO for the last four years, the stock is only up about 12%, but it feels like the moves that he and his team have made have made the company more than 12% stronger than it was four years ago.

Gross: I think that’s fair, and you might be pointing out a nice value investing opportunity. 9X EBITDA is not expensive for this type of company, as long as they continue to put up these kinds of numbers. But, I would want to see margins turn. It’s going to be competitive for quite some time, so we actually might not see that for a while. So, that value investment could be a little bit of a value trap for a while.

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