BERLIN — The Metro Group strengthened its earnings performance in the first quarter of 2011, with net profit before special items gaining 7 percent to 16 million euros, or $21.9 million.

Including special items, net profit more than tripled, hitting 14 million euros, or $19.2 million, compared to 3 million euros, or $4.2 million, for the year-ago period. Dollar figures are converted from the euro at an average exchange rate for the respective period.

First-quarter sales for the German cash-and-carry, department store, hypermarket and electronics retail group maintained last year’s level of 15.52 billion euros, or $21.21 billion, despite the shift of the Easter business into the second quarter.

Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) before special items rose 6.6 percent to 145 million euros, or $198.2 million, which the group attributed to cost savings and productivity gains related to its Shape 2012 restructuring program.

Metro’s Galeria Kaufhof department store division, however, saw earnings and sales slide in the period. The operating loss widened to 27 million euros, or $36.9 million, compared to a loss of 19 million euros, or $26.3 million, the year previously. Special items were not reported.

First-quarter sales at Galeria Kaufhof slumped 4.7 percent to 0.8 billion or $1.09 billion. Metro attributed both the sales and EBIT declines to the Easter shift.

Metro continues to anticipate sales growth of more than 4 percent for the year, with EBIT before special items advancing about 10 percent. The group noted the scope of the earnings rise will be dependent on further improvement of the global economy and the possibility of compensating for energy and raw material price increases.

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