By and  on January 13, 2005

BERLIN — Of the major retailers reporting preliminary fourth-quarter and year-end sales this week, results showed modest gains for Carrefour and Metro Group, but a decline for troubled KarstadtQuelle Group.

Results met or came just below what analysts were expecting.

Carrefour, the world’s second-largest retailer after Wal-Mart, said fourth-quarter sales rose 3.3 percent to 22.44 billion euros, or $29.11 billion, just short of analyst consensus expectations.

The French hypermarket giant said Tuesday full-year sales grew 3.2 percent to 81.39 billion euros, or $101.21 billion.

Dollar figures are at the average exchange rate.

Last September, Carrefour president Daniel Bernard promised to revitalize sales in the key French market, reduce debt and streamline operations.

The firm said it had begun to deliver on those promises by creating a “stronger platform for sales growth” in its French hypermarkets while shedding some noncore assets.

Sales in French hypermarkets dropped 0.1 percent on a like-for-like basis in the fourth quarter, compared with a cumulative 3.6 percent decline in the first nine months, Carrefour said.

The retailer said it would continue to divest its noncore assets. To wit: On Tuesday Carrefour announced the sale of 13 shopping centers and 19 hypermarkets in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Turkey, to investment fund Aerium for an estimated 376 million euros, or $499 million.

Metro Group’s 2004 preliminary sales figures showed a 5.3 percent gain, rising to 56.4 billion euros, or $70.14 billion.

The world’s fifth-largest retail firm said it expects “an increase in earnings per share of 6 to 10 percent for 2004,” which excludes the impact of closing 137 Extra supermarkets.

In the fourth quarter, group sales rose 6 percent to 16.8 billion euros, or $21.79 billion.

Meanwhile, preliminary figures show a 7 percent decline in 2004 sales for the KarstadtQuelle Group, meeting the retailer’s forecast.

The German department store and catalogue chain said total sales for the year fell to 14.2 billion euros, or $17.66 billion.

For the fourth quarter, group sales fell 9.5 percent to 4.12 billion euros, or $5.34 billion. Sluggish consumer demand coupled with public concern over the group’s future, in light of its announced job cuts, shop closures and a $1.7 billion restructuring plan, further dampened sales in some business units, especially in the first half of the quarter.Nevertheless, Christoph Achenbach, chairman of the management board, said that “in light of the difficult circumstances, we are satisfied with the fourth-quarter development. Christmas trading lay within the boundaries we had expected.”

Retail sales for the year stood at 6.49 billion euros, or $8.07 billion, a 7 percent decrease.

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