* Q3 l-f-l sales growth 2.8 pct vs 6.5 pct in Q2
* Q3 French hypermarket sales down 3.9 pct vs +1.1 pct in Q2
* CFO ‘comfortable” with 2014 EBIT consensus of 2.34 bln euros (Adds comments by CFO, financial details)
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Retailer Casino said sales growth slowed sharply in the third quarter, reflecting a slowdown in Brazil, its biggest market, and weaker sales at home resulting from low consumer confidence and poor summer weather.
Casino, which generates 60 percent of its sales in emerging markets and controls Brazil’s Grupo Pao de Acucar, posted third-quarter group sales of 11.97 billion euros ($15.15 billion). Analysts on average had expected sales of 11.8 billion, according to a Thomson Reuters poll.
Stripping out acquisitions, disposals, currency effects and fuel, sales rose 2.8 percent, slower than the 6.5 percent growth recorded in the second quarter.
“In the third quarter we faced a challenging environment with a deceleration of the Brazilian economy and a weaker France,” Chief Financial Officer Antoine Giscard d‘Estaing told analysts.
However, he was “comfortable” with the market consensus for 2014 earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT), which currently stood at 2.34 billion euros against 2.4 billion in mid-July.
In France, where Casino earns about 40 percent of revenue, food retail sales fell 2.7 percent.
Casino blamed exposure to tourist areas affected by a poor season, price cuts at its Geant hypermarkets and LeaderPrice discount stores, and falling fruit and vegetable prices, which Giscard d‘Estaing partly tied to “excess supply in the context of the Russian embargo.”
Adjusted for calendar effects, sales at the group’s French Geant hypermarkets fell 3.9 percent on the same comparable basis, after growing 1.1 percent in April-June.
Business substantially improved in September and early October across all store types in France, however, following a weak summer, Casino said.
Retailers across Europe including Carrefour and Tesco have struggled as shoppers’ disposable income is squeezed by subdued wage growth and austerity measures. Most have responded with price cuts.
Casino and Intermarche, a chain of independent stores, last week announced plans to pool together their purchasing teams for top branded products sold in France, in a deal aimed at clinching better terms with suppliers.
Giscard d‘Estaing said the deal should help Casino’s French margins but he would not quantify expected synergies.
The company has also been expanding for some years in the fast-growing emerging markets of Thailand, Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia, away from weaker growth in Europe, although Asia has slowed recently.
In Brazil, quarterly like-for-like sales growth excluding petrol and calendar effects was 6.7 percent, against 9.8 percent in the second quarter when non-food sales at the group’s hypermarkets had been boosted by the Soccer World Cup.
“We have a premium market which is doing nicely but the hypermarkets feel more pain and that is where we are focusing our efforts,” Giscard d‘Estaing said.
Last week Fitch Ratings said the outcome of the Brazilian presidential elections, combined with a weak economic environment, could decelerate both Carrefour and Casino’s revenue and profit expansion in Brazil in the short term.
But the rating agency also said that “strong underlying long-term fundamentals should remain unchanged, leaving Brazil a significant growth driver for both companies”.
Giscard d‘Estaing also said that Casino still planned to list Cnova, its e-commerce platform with over $4 billion in annual sales in France, Brazil, Colombia, Thailand and Vietnam. He did not elaborate on exact timing.
Bankers and analysts expect a listing by January. ($1 = 0.7900 euro) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; editing by Laurence Frost, James Regan and Matthew Lewis)