15 de enero de 2015 / 17:28 / en 3 años

UPDATE 2-Casino sees price cuts feeding through to 2015 sales growth

* Q4 sales 13.28 bln euros, up 3.1 pct like for like

* Revises down 2014 operating profit forecast to 2.22 bln euros

* CFO says bottom line to improve after French price repositioning (Recasts with CFO comment)

By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - French retailer Casino expects its domestic sales to improve further this year as it reaps the benefits of earlier discouning to build on fourth-quarter revenue growth that was bolstered by a resilient performance in Brazil.

Finance director Antoine Giscard d‘Estaing said that the group had made a downward revision to its 2014 forecast for operating profit, hit by the price cuts and negative currency effects in Latin America, but that it had laid the foundations for a stronger 2015.

“In France we have completed our price repositioning. The big cycle of price investments is behind us, so we shall have a better top line,” he told analysts.

Giscard d‘Estaing said that Casino, which is due to report full-year earnings on Feb. 17, now expects 2014 operating profit to decline 5.9 percent year on year to 2.22 billion euros ($2.58 billion), down from the 2.34 billion euros forecast in October.

Casino, which controls Brazil’s top retailer Grupo Pao de Acucar, posted fourth-quarter sales of 13.278 billion euros, in line with analysts expectations of 13.2 billion euros.

Stripping out acquisitions, disposals, currency effects and fuel, sales rose 3.1 percent year on year, against 2.8 percent growth recorded in the third quarter.

Retailers across Europe, including Carrefour and Tesco, have struggled as shoppers’ disposable income has been squeezed by subdued wage growth and austerity measures.

Most have responded with price cuts.

In France, where Casino generates 40 percent of its sales, traffic and sales volumes are now positive in all store formats, the company said.

Adjusted for calendar effects, sales at the group’s French Geant hypermarkets fell 2.3 percent in the fourth quarter after falling 3.9 percent on the same comparable basis in the third,

Same-store sales at discount chain LeaderPrice, where Casino has also been cutting prices, were down 5.9 percent but traffic was up 1.2 percent while volumes were stable.

The company has also been expanding for a number of years in the fast-growing emerging markets of Thailand, Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia, away from weaker growth in Europe.

Fourth-quarter international sales grew 5.6 percent year on year, with retail sales in Latin America up 5.1 percent, while Asia was up 3.1 percent.

In Brazil, food retail sales grew 6 percent, with hypermarkets feeling more pressure from a slower economy than premium convenience stores, but Casino said it will continue to cut prices and costs in he country. ($1 = 0.8610 euros) (Editing by David Goodman)

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