April 18, 2013 / 12:30 AM / 4 years ago

RPT-Australia's Wesfarmers says Coles Q3 sales up 5.3 pct

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SYDNEY, April 18 (Reuters) - Australia's Wesfarmers Ltd said on Thursday its Coles supermarkets posted improved quarterly sales results, driven by strong volume growth and competitive grocery prices.

Comparable food and liquor sales at Coles, which make up about half of revenue at the retail-to-coal company, rose 5.3 percent for the fiscal third quarter from a year earlier.

The result compared with a 3.9 percent rise in the second quarter, and beat a 3.8 percent rise at bigger rival Woolworths in the March quarter.

"Coles achieved its sixteenth consecutive quarter of growth in comparable sales and sales density," Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder said in a statement, citing strong volume growth and competitive grocery prices.

Coles and Woolworths, which control almost 80 percent of Australia's supermarket sector, have been competing to lure shoppers by slashing prices of basic items such as milk and bread.

Coles opened four new supermarkets and closed three supermarkets during the quarter, taking the total number of supermarkets to 754, the company said.

Australian retail sales, which have been boosted by record-low interest rates, surged in February by the most in three years, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed earlier this month.

Comparabale sales at Wesfarmers' home improvement chain Bunnings rose 4.0 percent for the quarter, while same-store sales at discounter Target grew 1.9 percent. Kmart sales grew 3.0 percent.

Wesfarmers' shares rose 1.0 percent in early trade to A$42.29 after the results, compared with a 0.5 fall in the broader market.

Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Richard Pullin

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