A strong performance since the end of the year coupled with Kmart's financial problems also prompted a slight rise in full-year earnings forecasts for this year. Chief executive Lee Scott said: "We had a good ending to a difficult year. Although we did not attain our goal of increasing earnings at the same rate of sales, our 8.9% growth in earnings per share in the fourth quarter represents more than triple the growth rate experienced in the first six months of the year." Like-for-like sales were up 6.9% for the last quarter and 5.8% for the year. Things improved significantly in Germany, where operating losses were "well below last year's levels" and like-for-like sales growth was in the low double digits against an industry average in the mid single digits. There was also improvement in gross margin, and a reduction in expenses and inventory levels. Wal-Mart posted a 6.3% rise in pre-tax profit to $10.75bn on sales up 13.8% to $217.8bn for the year to January 31 2002. {{NEWS }}