Carrefour in Beijing.

PARIS — Carrefour SA stock advanced strongly on Friday after the company reported a rise in sales during the first quarter, when growth accelerated in international markets.

Sales gained 3.8 percent for the retailer, the world’s second largest behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc., to 20.05 billion euros, or $22.12 billion at average exchange, in the three months ended March 31, in line with financial analysts’ consensus.

Excluding petrol and calendar impacts, Carrefour’s organic growth in the quarter stood at 3.1 percent, up from an increase of 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Carrefour stock had gained 3.8 percent at the close of the Paris Bourse on Friday to 26.11 euros, or $29.51 at current exchange.
In a research note, Barclays highlighted Carrefour chief financial officer Pierre-Jean Sivignon’s comment during the call with bankers and journalists on Friday morning that the current earnings before interest and taxes consensus of 2.5 billon euros, or $2.82 billion at current exchange, is “reasonable” for this year. Barclays called this “reassuring as some analysts were forecasting below this number.”

Barclays also wrote: “Although it admittedly does not offer the best earnings momentum this year, we consider that Carrefour trades at an excessive discount to the sector.”

Carrefour said its sales gains accelerated in the first quarter in Europe, where all countries posted like-for-like sales growth.

Sivignon described the European region as being “back as an additional source of growth for Carrefour. As a whole, the other European countries [outside France] posted a third consecutive quarter of sales growth with an increase of 2.5 percent on an organic basis and of 3.2 percent on a like-for-like basis.”

In France, Carrefour reported sales were up 0.1 percent to 9.34 billion euros, or $10.3 billion at average exchange, against challenging comps.

Carrefour is converting the Dia discount stores it acquired in 2014 to the Carrefour banner, and this process is “reaching cruising speed,” said Sivignon, noting it converted 115 in the first quarter, bringing the count up to 267. “These conversions will contribute significantly to the growth of our sales as well as to the growth of our profitability. [They] will also add to the rising share of sales at smaller formats in our overall mix in France. This is also another illustration that Carrefour’s model is increasingly multiformat.”

Overall, Carrefour said it closed or disposed of 145 stores in the first quarter, bringing the total network to 12,151 as of March 31.

Meanwhile, there was also a continued strong performance in Latin America and robust momentum in Taiwan on a comparable basis. Sales in China were sequentially better than in the fourth quarter of 2015.

“I would like to highlight that this is the fourth consecutive year in which Carrefour posted like-for-like growth in a first quarter,” said Sivignon.

He outlined the three external elements having had a net impact on the company’s overall sales in the period. They were: A significant unfavorable year-on-year currency effect of 6.9 percent, largely coming from the evolution of the Brazilian real and Argentine peso, and a drop in petrol prices that dented revenues by 1.2 percent. The fact that Easter came earlier in 2016 – a leap year – compared to 2015 translated into a favorable calendar effect of plus 0.6 percent.

Another highlight in the first three months of the year was that Carrefour e-commerce sales were up sharply. The growth of non-food online revenues was spurred by the consolidation of sales from e-commerce site Rue du Commerce.