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Compare and contrast…

Some shoppers like to compare prices at Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT) to see who has the best price on, say, diapers. But since both companies came out with their 10-Qs yesterday, let’s compare those instead. Looking at 10-Qs for two similar companies is a great way to quickly spot how different companies handle their accounting and disclosure. Wal-Mart, for example, goes into much greater detail than Target on the Q it filed yesterday, offering a mini version of its 10-K, including 5 pages of footnotes and a more detailed MD&A. The most interesting thing in Wal-Mart’s filing is that it increased its ownership stake in Seiyu, a Japanese grocery chain that operates 400 stores from 33 percent to 36 percent. In Asia, Wal-Mart operates stores in China and South Korea, but has no stores in Japan. In Target’s Q, the most interesting tidbit was that Target’s Visa card, which anyone who’s been inside a Target store knows that the company is pushing heavily, is starting to see its bad debts from that card climb. The good news is that the card is growing fast — receivab les are up 50 percent over the past year. The bad news is that bad debt is growing faster — the amount of bad debt written off has tripled over the past year and past due accounts are up about 40 percent.