By  on April 16, 2010

PARIS — Carrefour SA, the world’s second-largest retailer behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc., reported “encouraging” growth in the first quarter thanks to an improved performance in France and dynamic growth in emerging markets.

In the three months to March 31, sales rose 5.5 percent to 24 billion euros, or $33.2 billion, after rising 1 percent to 26 billion euros, or $38.25 billion, in the fourth quarter of 2009. Dollar figures have been converted at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.

“Our quarterly sales grew on a like-for-like basis for the first time in 18 months in spite of an environment that remains challenging,” Carrefour chief executive officer Lars Olofsson noted.

Carrefour said it would buy back up to 6 percent of its capital as part of an ongoing plan to cut costs and improve its price image.

The group also said it had agreed to sell 40 percent of its subsidiary PT Carrefour Indonesia to Trans Corp., the holding company of Para Group’s media, lifestyle and family entertainment businesses, for an undisclosed sum. Carrefour will retain a controlling 60 percent stake of Carrefour Indonesia, which operates 79 stores and plans to open an additional 13 in 2010.

Sales in Asia rose 6.9 percent in the first quarter to 2.3 billion euros, or $3.16 billion, while Latin America registered a 30.8 percent jump to 3.8 billion euros, or $5.3 billion.

Turnover in France — which accounts for 40 percent of the group’s sales — rose 2.1 percent in the first quarter, compared with a 2.8 percent drop in the fourth quarter of last year.

Sales in Europe, excluding France, were flat at 8 billion euros, or $11.17 billion, with activity in Belgium impacted by a series of strikes following the company’s announcement to staff on Feb. 23 that it planned to shutter 21 stores in that country.

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