PARIS, July 29 (Reuters) - Retailer Casino said on Friday that its core French operations returned to profit in the first half 2016 and it told investors that it was on track to achieve its full-year goal for a rise in profit in the country, handing them an interim dividend of 1.56 euros per share for 2016.
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 and has been criticised by U.S. activist Muddy Waters, is under pressure to show it can durably revive profits in France at a time of slower growth in Brazil.
Casino, which controls Brazil's top retailer, Grupo Pao de Acucar, said first-half group operating profit reached 317 million euros, down from a restated 388 million in the first half 2015.
First half 2015 accounts have been restated to reflect the impact of the sale of the Thailand and Vietnam assets as part of the group's plan to cut debt.
Casino said it was confirming its forecast for a 50 percent jump in 2016 trading profit to 500 million euros at its French operations, subject to the pursuit of consumption trends. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Leigh Thomas)