July 12, 2016 / 2:12 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 2-Brazil's GPA books stronger sales growth, lifting shares

(Adds comments from sellside analysts)

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO, July 12 (Reuters) - GPA SA, Brazil’s biggest retailer, booked accelerating sales growth for the second quarter, lifting shares to a two-month high on hopes that the company had turned a corner after two years of grinding recession.

GPA said in a Tuesday securities filing that net revenue rose a calendar-adjusted 5.0 percent from a year earlier to 16.684 billion reais ($5.08 billion), driven by surging demand for bargain prices in the Assai wholesale chain.

Without the adjustment for an early Easter holiday, net revenue rose 3.6 percent, above the 3.0 percent growth in the first quarter.

Preferred shares in GPA rose 4 percent in Sao Paulo trading to their highest levels since May 3.

Net revenue at stores open for more than a year, a gauge of recurring sales activity for retailing companies, rose 3.2 percent with the calendar adjustment, up from 0.8 percent growth in the first quarter.

To be sure, government retail sales data released separately on Tuesday suggested Brazil’s sputtering economy has still not hit bottom, as May sales volumes fell a seasonally adjusted 1.0 percent from April.

Retail sales declined in 14 of the last 18 months and are now more than 20 percent below their August 2012 peak, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis of official data. Brazilian retailers have been struggling with high inflation, dismal consumer confidence and a tight credit market.

GPA’s sales figures, which beat forecasts from some analysts, showed that the retailing giant was still able to boost sales with aggressive sales campaigns at supermarkets and home appliance chains, analysts at Brasil Plural Corretora said in a note to clients.

Although the promotions helped sales, the discounts “should come at the cost of gross margin erosion,” said the analysts.

In food retail, where GPA gets about 60 percent of its sales, Brazil Plural sees more room for improvement spearheaded by strong double-digit growth of same-store sales under the Assai banner, GPA’s cash-and-carry wholesaler.

Assai sales were up by 37.6 percent in the second quarter from the same period a year ago on a calendar-adjusted basis.

GPA is controlled by France’s Casino Guichard Perrachon & Cie.

$1 = 3.287 Brazilian reais Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by W Simon and Phil Berlowitz

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