UPDATE 1-Casino back to profit in France in H1, Brazil weighs
* H1 group operating profit 317 mln vs 388 mln yr ago
* H1 France operating profit 85 mln euros vs loss 53 mln yr ago
* Keeps goal for 2016 French operating profit of 500 mln euros
* To pay interim dividend of 1.56 euros/shr, shares up 1.7 pct (Adds CFO comments from call, shares, analyst)
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, July 29 (Reuters) - Retailer Casino said on Friday that its core French operations returned to profit in the first half 2016 and told investors that it was on track to achieve its full-year goal for a rise in profit in the country.
As of a further token of confidence in the future, Casino handed investors an interim dividend of 1.56 euros ($1.73) per share for 2016 after asset sales halved net debt to 4 billion euros. Its shares rose 1.9 percent in early Friday trade.
Weakness in recession-hit Brazil, its second-largest market after France, however weighed on the overall performance and group operating profit fell 18.2 percent in the first-half.
Casino, which saw its credit rating cut to junk status by Standard & Poor's in March is under pressure to show it can durably revive profits in France at a time of slower growth in Brazil. Continuación...