* Q4 like-for-like sales growth 4.1 pct vs 2.8 pct in Q3
* Eyes 2014 operating profit of 2.38 bln euros
* Ready for Brazil IPO in 2015 if market conditions permit (Adds more CFO comments, shares, analysts)
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Sales growth for Carrefour accelerated in the fourth quarter, with the world’s second largest retailer starting to see the benefits of efforts to revive its core European businesses.
Buoyant growth in Brazil, Carrefour’s largest market after France, also helped. Finance head Pierre-Jean Sivignon said the retailer would be ready to go ahead with an IPO in the South American country this year if market conditions permit.
Trading conditions remained weak in China, however, amid slowing consumption and a government crackdown on lavish spending, the company said on Friday.
Operating income for 2014 would be in line with the expected 2.38 billion euros ($2.8 billion), it added.
“Carrefour’s strong performance shows that action plans are beginning to bear fruit, and it demonstrates that Carrefour has durably improved its fundamentals,” Sivignon said.
Carrefour, which makes 73 percent of its sales in Europe, has suffered from a reliance on the hypermarket format it pioneered as customers shift to more local and online shopping.
Those trends have caused big problems for British supermarkets, in particular market leader Tesco.
In response, Carrefour Chief Executive Georges Plassat has cut costs and prices, freshened up stores and given greater autonomy to store managers, starting in France.
Fourth-quarter sales were 22.62 billion euros, above the average forecast of 22.47 billion in a Reuters poll of analysts. Stripping out fuel, currencies and calendar effects, revenue grew 4.1 percent year-on-year, an acceleration from 2.8 percent growth in the third quarter.
Carrefour’s performance was ahead of the 3.1 percent growth reported by French rival Casino on Thursday.
“Georges Plassat has delivered results in all areas he has been tackling...Going forward Carrefour still has leeway to shrink costs,” said Bryan Garnier analysts who said Carrefour remained their “top pick”.
By 1020 GMT Carrefour shares gained 1 percent, while Casino tumbled 4.5 percent after cutting its 2014 profit outlook.
Like-for-like sales growth in Brazil, an emerging market Carrefour has earmarked for expansion, rose 10.4 percent, an acceleration from 7.7 percent growth in the third quarter.
In Brazil, Carrefour revamped 18 hypermarkets in 2014 and opened 13 new Atacadao cash and carry stores.
Carrefour sold a 10 percent stake in its Brazilian business to billionaire Abilio Diniz last month, a step towards a possible separate listing as it looks to raise cash to accelerate growth in the country.
“We will be ready to do an IPO in Brazil in 2015 if market conditions permit”, said Sivignon. ($1 = 0.8601 euros) (Editing by James Regan and Keith Weir)