BENTONVILLE, Arkansas: Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, registered a 1% increase in sales for 2009 as a whole, reflecting a strong performance from its international operations.

Net sales rose to $405bn (€298.3bn; £259.87bn) in 2009, of which over $100bn was generated from markets outside of the US, the first time this milestone has been reached in the firm's history.

The discounter also posted profits of $4.5bn for the fourth quarter, with revenue of $113.65bn, with the latter figure falling slightly below initial estimates.

Wal-Mart has added 34m square feet of selling space to its store network over the past year. However, like-for-like US sales registered an annual decline of 1.6% in this period, due in part to falling grocery prices.

Mike Duke, Wal-Mart president and ceo, said: "We expect continued strong growth from International this fiscal year.

"US sales will be more challenging in the first quarter, as Wal-Mart US cycles through strong year-over-year comparisons and deflation."

The firm has been pursuing a productivity loop policy, a strategy that involves driving down costs, enabling it to reduce prices, thereby increasing sales, and, eventually, profits.

It also cut prices over the 2009 holiday season, with heavily-promoted targeted discounts for CDs, DVDs and video games being rolled out on a weekly basis in the run-up to Christmas.

"We successfully shifted the productivity loop into higher gear," Duke claimed.

"The diligent way we managed our businesses and tight control of our costs resulted in the company leveraging operating expenses for the fourth quarter."

Data sourced from Wal-Mart/CNBC/Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff