* Casino Q3 sales 11.78 bln eur vs Rtrs poll avg 11.7 bln
* French hypermarket sales fall 4.7 pct vs 7.9 pct drop in
* French hypermarket traffic and volumes positive
* CFO "very comfortable" with market consensus for 2013 EBIT
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, Oct 14 Casino said sales growth
accelerated in the third quarter thanks to robust demand in
Brazil and an improvement at its Geant hypermarkets in France,
where the retailer started to benefit from price cuts introduced
at the end of last year.
Finance director Antoine Giscard d'Estaing told journalists
on Monday that Casino now hoped to return to positive growth in
all its French businesses between the end of 2013 and early
He also said he was "very comfortable" with market
expectations for 2013 earnings before interest and taxes of 2.35
billion euros as Casino banks on strong profitable growth in
international markets, which make up 57 percent of sales.
Group sales for Casino, which controls top Brazilian
retailer Grupo Pao de Acucar, reached 11.78 billion
euros ($16 billion) in the quarter. Analysts had on average
expected sales of 11.7 billion, according to a Reuters poll.
Stripping out acquisitions, currency and calendar effects,
and petrol, this was a like-for-like rise of 6.5 percent and an
acceleration from 3 percent growth in the second quarter, Casino
said in a statement on Monday.
"There are encouraging signs in France despite an economic
climate that is not getting easier," he said.
Consumer confidence started improving from the second
quarter but remains "low" while consumers keep a tight rein on
spending despite low inflation, he added.
Retailers across Europe have been struggling as shoppers'
disposable income is squeezed by subdued wage growth and
Casino has been expanding in the fast-growing emerging
markets of Thailand, Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia, away from
weaker growth in Europe.
POSITIVE HYPERMARKET TREND
In France, closely watched like-for-like hypermarket sales
fell 4.7 percent in the quarter, compared with a 7.9 percent
drop in the second quarter and an 11.5 percent fall in the
first. Analysts had expected a sales decline of 5.5-6 percent.
In the last quarter of 2012, Casino funded permanent price
cuts on basic products by reducing promotions, a move that
initially cost it some customers. It typically takes several
months before price cuts lead to stronger sales volumes.
"Geant's traffic and food volumes have turned positive
again," Giscard d'Estaing said, citing rises of 1.3 percent for
traffic and 1.5 percent for food in the quarter.
This improvement came earlier than Casino had expected as
the retailer was initially targeting the end of 2013 for a
return to positive hypermarket traffic and food volumes.
French hypermarket traffic rose 2.4 percent and food volumes
gained 7.7 percent in the four weeks to Oct. 14, he added.
"This paves the way for positive sales numbers probably in
the second quarter next year," he said.
In emerging markets, Latin America posted like-for-like
sales growth of 13.5 percent, while Asia grew 8.5 percent in the
Casino shares have gained 9.5 percent this year,
underperforming a 37 percent rise in Carrefour and a
16.7 percent gain in the European retail sector.
Casino trades at 14.56 times 12-month forward earnings
against 17.33 times for Carrefour and 11.04 times for Britain's