(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) is emphasizing improving results in international markets where it already operates, such as China, over entering new markets, its top international executive said on Thursday.
“Our focus this year in particular has been on improving returns with our existing businesses,” said Doug McMillon, chief executive officer of Walmart International.
The company is working on the key markets of China and Brazil, he told investors and analysts at a meeting in Toronto that was also webcast.
China is getting ready to move to an everyday-low-price model, he said. Brazil has already switched over to that Walmart way of offering low prices at all times rather than relying on certain sale items.
In China, some new stores have not been as strong as Walmart would like, he said. Walmart China also dealt with a pork mislabeling issue last year that led to the temporary closure of some stores, and big leadership changes.
“A lot of issues have been identified in China over the last few months,” said McMillon. “It’s just nowhere near what it could be.”
Walmart International is looking at possible deals, both to enter new countries and acquire certain capabilities, but for now the focus is largely on the existing business, he said.
“We will continue to look for opportunities,” said McMillon. “If there’s a large market out there with a high growth rate and we feel like for some reason this is a time that we need to go or want to go, we’ll still do some of those things. But what I want to demonstrate to you is that we understand the obligation and opportunity that we have to improve returns, and we will do that.”
Walmart International grew at a faster clip than the larger Walmart U.S. in the fourth quarter. Operating income at Walmart International rose 15.2 percent to nearly $2.31 billion, while Walmart U.S. operating income rose 1.4 percent to $6.11 billion.
International results were mixed. Britain’s Asda saw sales growth slow from the third quarter.
Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago and Allison Martell in Toronto; editing by John Wallace