By  on January 12, 2010

BERLIN — Currency effects negatively impacted fourth-quarter and full-year 2009 sales at the Metro Group, according to preliminary and unaudited figures released Tuesday. However, the cash-and-carry giant — which also operates the Galeria Kaufhof department stores, electronics chains, supermarkets and hypermarkets — said it expects 2009 operative earnings before special items to be in line with market expectations, or down about 3 percent.

Group sales slipped 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 to 19.4 billion euros or $28.7 billion. When adjusted for currency effects, sales were down 0.1 percent. All dollar figures are converted from the euro at an average exchange rate for the periods to which they refer.

For 2009, group sales hit 65.5 billion euros, or $91.3 billion, a decrease of 3.6 percent, but in local currency, rose 0.2 percent, the group said. Earnings figures were not released.

Describing its Christmas business as “very satisfactory,” the Galeria Kaufhof department store division saw an improvement in fourth-quarter sales compared with the first nine months. Fourth-quarter sales were down 0.3 percent to 1.2 billion euros, or $1.8 billion, with full-year sales for the 141-door chain declining 1.9 percent to 3.5 billion euros, or $4.9 billion euros.

Metro’s core cash-and-carry business remained a weak spot. Fourth-quarter sales were down 8.7 percent to 8.4 billion euros, or $12.4 billion, with full-year sales dropping 7.6 percent to 30.6 billion euros, or $42.7 billion.

Metro said it expects 2010 macroeconomic conditions to remain challenging, but cited international growth opportunities for strong formats, especially in Eastern Europe and Asia. It plans to significantly accelerate store openings and said the ongoing implementation of its cost-efficiency program, Shape 2012, would strengthen the group’s earning power. Last year, Metro opened 80 doors worldwide.

Shares of Metro closed at 40.88 euros, or $59.30 at current exchange, down 0.9 percent, in Xetra trading Tuesday.

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