PARIS — Carrefour SA reported sales fell 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter, despite a solid performance from its business in France and outside Europe, and a pickup in Spain.

The world’s second-largest retailer, behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc., registered sales of 22.2 billion euros, or $30.56 billion, in the three months ended Dec. 31.

“Carrefour posted solid growth in sales, confirming the relevance of our action plans,” the retailer’s chief financial officer Pierre-Jean Sivignon told analysts during a conference call Thursday.

The retailer has been involved in a turnaround plan for more than 18 months, since the arrival of chief executive officer Georges Plassat in May 2012. It has sold off noncore interests to focus on markets where it has a leadership position, and decentralized management to give more responsibility to regions and stores.
Domestic sales grew 0.3 percent to 10.6 billion euros, or $14.59 billion, with sales growing 0.3 percent at the firm’s hypermarkets and falling 0.5 percent at its supermarkets.

“France posted its best ex-petrol like-for-like performance since 2007,” Sivignon said, highlighting the activity’s 0.4 percent increase in like-for-like sales.

International revenues fell 3.1 percent to 11.59 billion euros, or $15.96 billion.


European markets outside France saw a 0.8 percent drop in revenues to 5.99 billion euros, or $8.16 billion. In Spain, “like-for-like sales turned positive for the first time since 2008,” said Sivignon, although he confirmed that consumption in Carrefour’s third-largest market (after France and Brazil) continued to be impacted by high unemployment and tough austerity measures.

Latin America, where sales fell 6.9 percent to 3.97 billion, or $5.41 billion, was impacted by an 18.8 percent currency effect over the period. At constant-currency rates, revenues grew 11.9 percent.

Asia posted a 1.9 percent decline in sales to 1.63 billion euros, or $2.22 billion. In China, the company’s organic sales grew 1.4 percent despite a slowdown in discretionary spending, while in Taiwan they were flat.

The company plans to continue its expansion in Brazil and China, Sivignon said, and will also carry on renovating both hypermarkets and supermarkets at home over the next two to three years.

For the full year 2013, Carrefour sales fell 1.2 percent to 84.32 billion euros, or $116.08 billion. This included a 0.2 percent uptick at its French business and a 2.5 percent decline in international markets.

On a like-for-like basis and excluding petrol, total sales for the year grew 3.2 percent, Carrefour said.
Sivignon confirmed consensus estimates for the company’s income for 2013 at 2.19 billion euros, or $2.98 billion.

Carrefour shares dropped 3.7 percent in trading Thursday to 27.25 euros, or $37.13, as investors reacted to the company’s worse-than-anticipated results.

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