PARIS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - French retailer Casino posted fourth-quarter sales above expectations on Thursday, as a recovery in its core French market gained momentum thanks notably to previous price cuts, and kept its forecasts for improved profitability in France.
Consumer electronics demand in Brazil, its second-biggest market by revenue, remained weak in the fourth quarter but the sales decline was more moderate than in previous quarters, Casino said.
Casino, which controls Brazil's Grupo Pao de Acucar , posted fourth-quarter sales of 11.793 billion euros ($12.82 billion), above the average of analyst estimates of 11.6 billion.
Stripping out acquisitions, disposals, currency effects and fuel, sales declined 0.3 percent year-on-year, less than the 0.5 percent decline recorded in the third quarter.
The sales statement had been eagerly awaited by investors on hopes of shaking off some of the negative sentiment fuelled by a report from research and investment firm Muddy Waters LLC criticising the French retailer last month.
Casino shares, which lost 45 percent last year, have been hit by concerns over challenging French and Brazilian markets, and its balance sheet.
These were revived last month when Muddy Waters said the retailer was "dangerously leveraged" and put a value of 6.91 euros on its shares, prompting the worst slide in seven years in Casino's stock. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by James Regan)