Wal-Mart, the planet’s largest company (by sales revenues), announced Tuesday that it continues to pull ahead of such minnows as Exxon Mobil and General Motors – thanks mainly to robust sales growth within its international division.

Sales at the Arkansas-headquartered colossus grew by nearly 12 per cent to $27 billion (€25.19bn; £16.94bn) compared with preliminary figures of $204.5bn from Exxon Mobil and GM's $186.7bn. In the year ended December 31, the sales surge boosted Wal-Mart’s full year income by 21% to $8.04bn ($1.81 a share) from $6.67bn ($1.49).

But the beams at Bentonville are a tad strained. The fourth quarter, it seems, saw a sharp reverse in US sales growth, particularly at the group’s Sam’s Club warehouse discount division. The current environment, according to Wal-Mart ceo Lee Scott, is “troubling”, and he predicted a slowdown in US same-store sales growth this quarter to a meagre 2-4 per cent.

Sadly investors and the world at large are out of kilter with Good Ol’ Sam’s philosophy. Complains Scott: “There is a loss of investor confidence due to concerns over corporate ethics. There are fears over geopolitical risks. In that environment, sales slowed but we captured a larger share of the available market.”

Wal-Mart’s international excursions survived a shaky start in Mexico ten years ago to culminate in 2002 with a 15% sales increase to $40.8bn. Leading the pack is Wal-Mart’s UK operation Asda, the nation’s third largest supermarket chain, where food sales were up in the high single digits, and non-food sales enjoyed percentage growth in the “mid-20s”.

Asda's George clothing range, which Wal-Mart is introducing throughout its global operations, also reported growth in the mid-20s.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff