Walmart's (WMT) fourth quarter results were simply exceptional. The retail juggernaut beat estimates and demonstrated strong growth across the board. Walmart reported big growth in e-commerce sales, as well as comp sales across the board. I honestly believe that this time tested name has the infrastructure, and pricing power to give Amazon (AMZN) a serious run for its money.
Revenues increased 1.9% to $138.79 billion. Nice controls of SG&A expenses helped the company derive meaningful operating income from that revenue. Operating income increased 35.8% in the fourth quarter to $6.07 billion. Consolidated net income attributable to Walmart was driven up a further 69.5% to $3.68 billion. You just can't say anything negative about that kind of performance. The income broke down to $1.27 per diluted share, a 74% increase year over year.
The great quarter capped off a year that included 2.8% revenue growth to $514.4 billion. Operating income increased 7.4% for the year, to $21.96 billion. Full year net income (attributable to Walmart) was the one weak point for Walmart. That income decreased 32.4% to $6.67 billion. The fourth quarter was largely the only quarter to really buck a trend of higher costs weakening Walmart's profits. Full year diluted earnings were $2.26 per share. That's a 31.1% decline from 2017.
The sales story is what will really drive Walmart's stock today. The company demonstrated a strong ability to still derive sales growth in a largely Amazon dominated market right now. U.S. comp sales increased 4.2% in Q4 vs. 2.6%. Traffic decreased 70 basis points year over year to 0.9%. I don't like this, but ticket increased 3.3%, largely making up for the slower traffic growth. Overseas, Walmart created sales growth of 2.7% in the fourth quarter. Operating income remains pesky however, with a 9.9% decline to $1.2 billion. Sam's Club comp sales increased 3.3%, but net sales decreased 3.7% to $14.9 billion.
My take on Walmart is that we're seeing the beginning payouts of investments to compete with a shifting retail space. Walmart's U.S. e-commerce sales increased 40% in fiscal 2019. I think one of the big drivers here is the company's grocery pickup and delivery initiatives. Obviously Jet.com has been a strong move in the online space, but the implementation of grocery pickup has a two pronged effect. You maintain a position against Amazon's attempts to conquer grocery with Whole Foods, all the while promoting customers visit to your stores. Think about it, if you order stuff online and go to pick it up, what are the odds that you realize you need something else while you're at the store? It creates incentive for store visits, and I think will really complement the business over the long term. Rather than more store openings, I think the big emphasis should be on increasing the number of stores with the grocery up service as quickly as possible. The company expects U.S. e-commerce sales growth of around 35% in fiscal 2020.
There is a caveat to all the good news, Walmart's acquisition of India-based Flipkart has put a damper on fiscal 2020 guidance. Including Flipkart's performance, the company expects the potential for operating income to decline, as well as lower earnings per share in fiscal 2020. Of course, this is a short term problem, but it could impact the stock through the year. There is also the possibility that the company is being conservative on its numbers, and that they will outpace this guidance. Moreover, the massive investment in India's e-commerce market seems worth the potential hit.
Full year GAAP earnings of $2.26 per share mean the stock is trading at roughly 40x their earnings. That's a bit pricey. However, on an adjusted basis for onetime items, Walmart had full year earnings of $4.91 a share. At that number, Walmart is trading at 21x earnings. The stock will pop today, as it already has in premarket, but I'm not sure that we're ready for the breakout yet. Slower U.S. traffic, combined with the 2020 guidance of lower earnings per share (including the effects of Flipkart) will eventually weigh the stock down in my view over the short term. This is a more long term situation. The company is showing the positive effects of its initiatives to compete in a more tech based retail environment. It is also showing its ability to reinvest in its stores and derive comp sales growth. Of all the brick and mortar players, I think Walmart is by far the strongest competitor against the threat of Amazon's constant market gains.
View it as a short term hold, long term buy. I think further investments could weigh on the stock in fiscal 2020. Long term, I think we're seeing a lot of potential.
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