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Wal-Mart profit beats expectations; stock jumps

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) on Thursday reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit as increased drug prices and solid demand for basic apparel items boosted sales, and its shares jumped more than 7 percent.

The company’s performance bucked a string of weak results from competitors. On Wednesday, rival Target Corp (TGT.N), which caters to a higher-income customer than Wal-Mart, gave a cautious outlook and reported a lower-than-expected rise in quarterly sales due to unseasonable weather and soft demand.

“It looks like the middle-to-higher-income customers have cut back, but the lower-income customer is spending,” said Edward Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough.

The upbeat results also suggest Wal-Mart may be benefiting from its $2.7 billion investment to increase entry-level wages and in training of its workforce. Store visits rose 1.5 percent in the first quarter ended on April 29.

“Overall a pretty strong quarter,” Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs said in an interview. “We are very pleased with the traffic increases, and I think that goes along with what we are seeing with customer experience scores that continue to improve.”

Lower utility costs resulting from warmer-than-usual winter weather also supported profitability, Wal-Mart said.

Net income attributable to Wal-Mart fell to $3.08 billion from $3.34 billion a year earlier, reflecting the costs of boosting the company’s minimum wage to $10 an hour and investing in automated warehouses dedicated to filling online orders.

Earnings per share of 98 cents beat the analysts’ average estimate of 88 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose 1.0 percent, excluding fuel price fluctuations. That marked the seventh straight quarterly rise and was stronger than market expectations for an increase of 0.5 percent, according to research firm Consensus Metrix.

For the current quarter, Wal-Mart said it expected an increase of about 1.0 percent in U.S. same-store sales. It forecast earnings per share of 95 cents to $1.08, against market expectations of 98 cents.

First-quarter revenue rose 0.9 percent to $115.9 billion despite a $3.5 billion hit from a stronger dollar, which reduces the value of overseas sales.

Online sales growth again decelerated, to 7 percent in the first quarter from 8 percent, 10 percent, 16 percent and 17 percent in the previous periods.

Biggs said e-commerce sales grew faster in the U.S. market than overseas, but the overall performance fell short of its objectives.

Asked about slowing online growth, Biggs said Wal-Mart had yet to capitalize on big changes it made over the past few years, which included the rollout of a new technology platform and the ramping up of its e-commerce assortment to 10 million items.

“That’s a lot of change over a two-, three-year period,” Biggs said. “We are just really starting to come out of some of those big changes.”

Shares of Wal-Mart were up 7.5 percent at $67.94 in early trading.

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UK non-essential shops to reopen from June 15: PM Boris Johnson

The British Retail Consortium said it welcomed the announcement, adding it provided “much-needed clarity on the route ahead”.

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Boris Johnson

London, May 26 : All non-essential retailers across the UK will be able to reopen from June 15, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced, as part of plans to further ease the COVID-19 lockdown in the country.

Adressing the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Monday, Johnson said that the move was “contingent on progress in the fight against coronavirus”, and retailers will have to adhere to new guidelines to protect shoppers and workers, the BBC reported.

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from June 1.

Johnson said new guidance had been published for the retail sector “detailing the measures they should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards”.

“Shops now have the time to implement this guidance before they reopen,” he said.

“This will ensure there can be no doubt about what steps they should take.”

Commenting on the development, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.”

The British Retail Consortium said it welcomed the announcement, adding it provided “much-needed clarity on the route ahead”.

A spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry added that the new guidance would help retailers to open “safely and securely”.

However, not all businesses are pleased with the announcement, said the BBC report.

The British Association of Independent Retailers said many small shops had been preparing to open from next week, adding: “It is therefore a little disappointing for the smaller retailers not to be able to open until June 15, especially as they can make it safe to do so.”

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Airtel group ties up with Mastercard for farmers, SMEs

Airtel Payments Bank has been working with Mastercard for last three years to offer Mastercard powered debit cards to its savings bank account customers in the country.

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airtel

New Delhi, May 26 : Airtel Payments Bank (APBL) has partnered with Mastercard to develop customized products catering to customers across the underbanked spectrum including farmers, small and medium enterprises and retail customers.

As part of the Government’s vision of Digital India and Banking for every Indian, both entities have been working towards driving adoption of formal banking and digital payments in the country.

The collaboration will bring together Mastercard’s global and local experience in developing advanced financial solutions and Airtel Payments Bank’s strong distribution network to reach the last mile and its large customer base.

The collaboration aims at building a digital platform which provides farmers with knowledge about advanced farming techniques and connection to marketplaces, while simultaneously enabling them to receive payments directly in their Airtel Payments Bank account.

Combined with 500,000 banking points of Airtel Payments Bank, the platform will provide farmers with access to neighbourhood banking, earnings stability and income growth. This will be a significant move towards building a cashless economy.

Both partners will also work together to create customized solutions for millions of small businesses across the country. These solutions will empower small and medium scale enterprises, who have limited access to finance, to make assisted payments, manage their financial & transactional processes, and also avail working capital in these times of crisis.

Finally, Airtel Payments Bank and Mastercard will work together to create differentiated card solutions, including solutions for contact less payments via NFC (Near Field Communication) for customers and merchants.

Anubrata Biswas, MD and CEO, Airtel Payments Bank said “..we aim to create products that will motivate customers to adapt formal banking behaviour and start opting for digital payments. These solutions will be an addition to our existing differentiated bouquet of easy, accessible and convenient banking and payment solutions to serve the underserved and unbanked population.”

Porush Singh, Division President, South Asia, Mastercard said, “These solutions will enable them to access a larger market base, receive payments easily into their bank accounts, safeguard their money against risks associated with cash and get easy access to credit. The partnership will also play an important role towards achieving Mastercard’s goal to empower India’s merchants with digital payments acceptance infrastructure by the end of this year.

Airtel Payments Bank has been working with Mastercard for last three years to offer Mastercard powered debit cards to its savings bank account customers in the country.

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Maruti Suzuki introduces safety norms for used car business

True Value will also provide home delivery and post-sales support to customers among other measures.

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Maruti Suzuki

New Delhi, May 26 : Maruti Suzuki India on Tuesday said it has put in place comprehensive norms to ensure a safe and hygienic car buying experience at its True Value showrooms.

The used car retail channel, True Value, comprises of 570 outlets in 280 towns and cities across the country.

In a statement, Maruti Suzuki said that the guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOP) ensure the maximum hygiene, sanitisation and safety for customers and they have been implemented in line with Centre’s advisories on COVID-19.

Kenichi Ayukawa, Managing Director and CEO, Maruti Suzuki India said: “Customer safety is our top priority. From showroom walk-in to delivery of car, we are fully committed to offer a safe and hygienic experience to our customers. We have put in place steps to ensure complete safety, hygiene and sanitization of all customer touchpoints.”

The safety features include seamless and personalised online car buying experience with use of True Value website and a dedicated mobile application to search and shortlist their preferred pre-owned cars and online documentation procedure.

The company has also ensured frequent sanitisation of customer interaction points and touch points like car evaluation area, parking, discussion area, display yard, registration desk, accessory display area, test drive vehicle, delivery and back office along with thermal screening to ensure absolute safety.

“Further to the robust evaluations and certification process each True Value car will be disinfected thoroughly before its test drive. The True Value staff visiting customer’s home will follow safety protocols with masks, social distancing and sanitizers. They will undergo thermal screening before and after visit,” said the statement.

True Value will also provide home delivery and post-sales support to customers among other measures.

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