* Q4 sales 22.85 bln euros vs I/B/E/S poll 22.9 bln
* Q4 l-f-l French hypermarkets down 2 pct vs 3.3 pct in Q3
* France improves, Southern Europe still difficult
* Comfortable with 2012 profit estimate of 2.07 bln euros
* Shares up over 6 percent
(Adds detail on European peers, analyst, share prices)
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, Jan 17 Price cuts and revamped product
ranges helped Carrefour deliver an improved
fourth-quarter performance in its core French market, reassuring
investors about new boss Georges Plassat's ability to revive
Europe's largest retailer.
The French group is battling to reverse years of
underperformance in Europe, where its hypermarkets have been hit
by competition from specialist stores and trends toward local
and online shopping.
Carrefour said on Thursday sales in China also improved,
while Brazil, its biggest market after France, saw robust
growth. But sales in austerity-hit Southern Europe remained
The world's second-biggest retailer after U.S. group
Wal-mart said it was comfortable with analysts' current
median forecast for 2012 recurring operating income, which
stands at around 2.07 billion euros ($2.75 billion).
Its shares were up 6.2 percent at 20.52 euros by 0845 GMT.
"Another reassuring quarter with Q4 (fourth-quarter) sales
showing some signs of progress," said one retail analyst, who
declined to be named.
Carrefour, which makes over 40 percent of its sales in
France, said it made group sales of 22.85 billion euros in the
last quarter of 2012, in line with the average 22.9 billion
forecast in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll.
Stripping out fuel and currency effects, revenue in France
fell 0.8 percent after a 1.5 percent drop in the third quarter.
Same-store sales at French hypermarkets fell 2.0 percent
after a 3.3 percent decline in the third quarter and a 5.7
percent drop in the second.
This reflected the impact of promotions in October as well
as initiatives such as offering shoppers lasting price cuts,
introduced last year and strengthened by CEO Plassat.
Carrefour has also been revamping its cheaper own-brand
ranges and cutting back on non-food goods, where it has faced
the strongest competition from specialist and online rivals.
The group's performance in France came in marked contrast
with that of smaller domestic rival Casino, which
posted a near 10 percent drop in hypermarket sales on Tuesday
after it funded permanent price cuts on basic products by
It has been a fiercely competitive festive season for
retailers across Europe, with shoppers' disposable incomes are
squeezed by higher prices, subdued wages growth and austerity
Dutch retailer Ahold and Belgian peer Delhaize
, which both make most sales in the United States,
reported sales broadly in line with expectations on Thursday.
Ahold, whose Giant and Stop & Shop grocery stores are mostly
in the U.S. northeast, benefited from customers stocking up
ahead of Hurricane Sandy, but suffered a slowdown in sales in
the Netherlands as its vitamin-to-cosmetics chain Etos faced
Delhaize, with a larger presence in the economically weaker
U.S. southeast, stemmed four quarters of declining sales there
after a revamp of its main Food Lion chain, involving price cuts
and more fresh fruit on offer.
The company said it was Food Lion's best quarterly
performance since 2006.
However, the Belgian group also said it would be taking a
390 million euro ($399 million) one-off hit related to a
revaluation of Maxi, the Balkan chain bought in 2011, the
closure of 34 U.S. Sweetbay stores and U.S. management layoffs.
Shares in Ahold slipped 0.6 percent to 10.44 euros, while
Delhaize stock was up 5.5 percent at 33.71 euros.
($1 = 0.7521 euros)
(Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Philip
Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by James Regan and Mark Potter)