French retail giant Carrefour SA (CA.FR) Thursday reported a 1.5% rise in first-quarter sales, as higher petrol prices and a positive calendar effect offset continued weak consumption in France and Southern Europe.
Carrefour, the world's No. 2 retailer by sales, after U.S.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), said sales for the first three months of the year rose to EUR22.5 billion, from EUR22.15 billion a year earlier, on a pro-forma basis that takes into account the spinoff of the Dia discount chain last summer.
The performance is in line with analysts' expectations of EUR22.45 billion.
Carrefour's Chairman and Chief Executive Lars Olofsson, who will step down in June, said sales in the first quarter rose thanks to "continued growth in emerging markets". Sales in Southern Europe were impacted by lower non-food spending, while sales in Latin America had a "satisfying performance".
In France, the company's most important market in which it generates more than 40% of annual revenue, sales rose 0.8% to EUR9.36 billion, helped by petrol price inflation, an extra day of business in January and the leap year effect in February. Excluding fuel, sales in France in the first quarter fell 0.5% compared with the same period in 2011.
Sales in Brazil, at a constant foreign exchange rate and excluding petrol sales, rose 8.2% to EUR3.17 billion. Sales in China were down 1.5% at a constant foreign exchange rate at EUR1.66 billion.
After issuing several profit warnings last year, the company has given no guidance for earnings in 2012, saying only that it plans "minimum cost savings of EUR400 million" and tight control of capital expenditure.
Olofsson will hand over to Georges Plassat--the company's third boss in four years--who will shoulder the responsibility of turning around the struggling retail giant.
-By Nadya Masidlover and Inti Landauro, Dow Jones Newswires; +33 1 4017 1740; firstname.lastname@example.org
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