UK grocer Sainsbury's profit growth slows

LONDON Wed May 7, 2014 2:11am EDT

LONDON May 7 (Reuters) - British grocer J Sainsbury posted a 5.3 percent rise in annual profit, its slowest growth in nearly a decade, illustrating the pressure the industry is under as a battle over prices to combat the rise of the discounters hots up.

Sainsbury's, which trails market leader Tesco and is battling with Wal-Mart's Asda to be Britain's No. 2 grocer, said on Wednesday it made an underlying pretax profit of 798 million pounds ($1.36 billion) in the year to March 15.

That compares with analyst forecasts in a range of 750-810 million pounds, with a consensus of 782 million pounds, and 756 million pounds made in the 2012-13 year.

The firm said conditions in the food retail sector are likely to remain challenging for the foreseeable future as customers continue to spend cautiously.

But it added that it expected its differentiated offer would allow it to outperform peers in the year ahead. ($1 = 0.5885 British Pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton)

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