Wal-Mart's woes in Germany were confirmed this week after the US retail giant revealed a staggering net loss of E528m on sales of E2.56bn.

The long-awaited accounts, filed last week by the group's German operations for 2003 trading, confirmed reports that Wal-Mart had been virtually kept afloat in Germany by its US parent company and had failed to make a profit since entering the country in 1997.

Bryan Roberts, a retail analyst for Planet Retail, said the "absolutely dire" results were bad news for Wal-Mart and that the company's trading performance remained poor. He said: "Without the deep pockets of Bentonville, its German operations would have fallen into insolvency. Because of this, however, cashflow is not really an issue and it is clearly in it for the long haul."

An industry source in Germany said the "dreadful" results were largely due to Wal-Mart's insufficient buying power with domestic suppliers.

Mike Dawson, of German food industry newspaper Lebensmittel Zeitung, backed up the comments, adding that it was 'make or break' time for Wal-Mart. He said: "Wal-Mart has been haemorrhaging money in Germany for years. Soon it will have no choice but to either leave or make a big acquisition, but it is running out of options."

However, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said that the figures reflected the restructuring and integration of the Interspar and Wertkauf stores, which had proved a "complex project".