Wal-Mart's S.Africa unit Massmart cautions on soft sales growth

Wed May 22, 2013 5:20am EDT

JOHANNESBURG May 22 (Reuters) - South Africa's Massmart Holdings said on Wednesday it expects lacklustre sales growth this year, as the unit of Wal-Mart Stores Inc battles with weak consumer demand in Africa's top economy.

Massmart, majority owned by the world's largest retailer, said comparable store sales increased by 5.6 percent for the first 21 weeks of its financial year.

"The decline in comparable sales growth has been evident in all product categories and across all South African geographies," the company said, adding it expected growth to "remain soft" for the remainder of the year.

Massmart also said operating margins would probably not match 2012 levels, reflecting recent capital expenditure.

The company said it expects to open 27 new stores in the remainder of the financial year, including Builders Warehouse stores in Botswana and Mozambique.

Shares of Massmart were down 0.8 percent at 202.50 rand at 0914 GMT, compared with a 1 percent drop in the benchmark Top-40 index.

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