Carrefour boosts 2014 capex after 2013 profit rises
PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - Carrefour, the world's second-largest retailer, said it would boost capital spending this year, highlighting its commitment to reviving its struggling European hypermarkets and expanding in the emerging markets of China and Brazil.
Europe's biggest retailer also hiked its 2013 dividend by 7 percent to 0.62 euros per share after operating profit rose 5.3 percent, slightly above analysts expectations.
The performance reflected a sharp improvement in the profitability of the core French business as a turnaround plan started to pay off, as well as robust growth in Latin America, though Spain, Italy and Asia were weak.
Carrefour, which is battling to reverse years of underperformance in Europe, said it would invest between 2.4 billion and 2.5 billion euros to renovate and expand stores this year against 2.2 billion last year, above analysts' expectations of 2.2 billion for 2014.
The world's second-biggest retailer behind Wal-Mart, reported 2013 operating profit rose to 2.238 billion euros ($3.08 billion), slightly above the average estimate of 2.224 billion in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll.
Carrefour, which has been selling non-core assets to raise cash to defend positions in key markets of western Europe, China and Brazil and strengthen its balance sheet, said net debt fell by 203 million euros to 4.12 billion at end-2013. ($1 = 0.7277 Euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by James Regan)
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