* Q1 sales down 3.3 pct, like-for-like up 1.1 pct
* CEO: Sales in line with outlook despite "soft Christmas"
* Metro cash & carry pulls out of Egypt on political turmoil
* Like-for-like sales fall at Real supermarkets,Media/Saturn
* Shares down 0.8 pct vs 0.5 pct sector rise
By Emma Thomasson and Matthias Inverardi
BERLIN/DUESSELDORF, Jan 13 German retailer Metro
AG has reported a drop in sales in its fiscal first
quarter, saying turnover in the key Christmas period had been
soft and its headline numbers had been hit by negative currency
Europe's fourth-biggest retailer, which runs cash and
carries, supermarkets, department stores and the region's top
consumer electronics chain, said sales had fallen 3.3 percent to
18.7 billion euros ($25.6 billion) in the three months through
Stripping out the impact of weaker currencies in eastern
Europe and Asia, as well as the closure of supermarkets in
eastern Europe and electronics stores in China, sales rose 1.1
percent, slowing from 1.8 percent in the previous quarter.
The main contributor to the like-for-like increase came from
an improvement at the cash and carry business, which accounts
for almost half group turnover, while sales fell at the
Media-Saturn electronics stores and Real supermarkets due to
tough competition from online and discounter rivals.
"Our new financial year got off to a solid start in spite of
the still challenging economic backdrop; soft Christmas sales
prevented a better development," Chief Executive Olaf Koch said
in a statement.
Koch said the sales development was still in line with the
company's guidance for "slight absolute sales growth" in its
2013/14 financial year. Metro reports full figures for the
October to December period on Feb. 11.
"Metro's first-quarter 13/14 numbers were broadly in line
with our expectations and those of the market consensus," said
Citi analyst Pradeep Pratti.
"No update on guidance was provided for the full year which,
if anything, should be interpreted as a slight positive."
Metro shares, which trade in line with Europe's biggest
retailer Carrefour on 17 times forward earnings, were
down 0.8 percent at 0813 GMT, underperforming a 0.5 percent rise
in the European retail index.
The sprawling group, which runs over 2,200 outlets in 32
countries but gets just over two thirds of sales from Germany
and other western European countries, is trying to revive its
fortunes by divesting non-core businesses, cutting prices at its
cash and carries and revamping product ranges.
The cash and carry business reported like-for-like sales
grew 0.9 percent to 8.5 billion euros as trading in Germany and
the rest of western Europe improved against the 2012/13 year.
However, Metro said it had closed its two MAKRO cash and
carry stores in Egypt, saying it saw no expansion opportunities
in the country which has been hit by political turmoil.
Metro shares had jumped on Friday after a media report said
family-owned conglomerate Haniel was considering
pushing for a breakup of the group, in which it owns a little
over 30 percent. But they reversed most of the gains after a
spokesman for Haniel dismissed the report.
Metro has long stated its wish to sell off its Kaufhof
department stores and Real hypermarkets divisions to focus on
its cash and carry and consumer electronics stores, which it
feels have better expansion prospects abroad.
Metro said German like-for-like sales at Real fell 2 percent
due to tough competition from discounters and a high prior-year
base, while they rose 0.8 percent at Kaufhof, but were still
held back by mild winter weather dampening sales of clothes.
Metro's Media-Saturn electronics chain, which has suffered
from a late entry into e-commerce, saw like-for-like sales fall
1.2 percent, though online sales grew by more than 40 percent.