Walmart reported a drop in first-quarter profits Tuesday with pandemic-related sales growth moderating somewhat, but shares rallied as the results still topped expectations.

Profits in the quarter ending April 30 came in at $2.7 billion, down 32 percent from the year-ago period. Revenues were $138.3 billion, up three percent.

The world's biggest retailer, Walmart has seen strong sales growth over the last year, having operated during the early days of the pandemic as an "essential" business and notching robust online sales increases throughout the period.

In the most recent quarter, Walmart's US division scored six percent growth in comparable sales -- an impressive level that was above analyst expectations, but which lagged the 10 percent growth in the first quarter of last year.

Walmart's sales growth moderated in the most recent quarter, but still topped expectations Walmart's sales growth moderated in the most recent quarter, but still topped expectations Photo: AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM

A similar trend was seen in Walmart's US e-commerce sales, which grew 37 percent in the most recent quarter, half the level in the year-ago period.

Sales were also negatively affected by divestitures in businesses in Britain, Argentina and Japan.

"We're encouraged by traffic and grocery market share trends," said Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon. "In the US customers clearly want to get out and shop."

McMillon said US stimulus payments "had an impact" during the quarter and "we anticipate continued pent-up demand throughout 2021."

Shares rose 3.0 percent to $143.00 in pre-market trading.