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LISBON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Portuguese retailer Jeronimo Martins reported a lower-than-expected 9 percent increase in fourth-quarter net profit on Wednesday as it accelerated store openings in Colombia.
The company, which is the largest food retailer in Poland and the second-largest in Portugal, where it owns the Pingo Doce supermarket chain, saw sales growth of 12 percent. It said it expected growth in all its markets in 2018, keeping its investment spending at 700 million euros to 750 million euros ($854 mln to $915 mln) this year.
Fourth quarter net profit totalled 100 million euros while sales rose to 4.35 billion euros.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 7.6 percent to 253 million euros, also coming in below the market consensus. Analysts in a Reuters survey had forecast, on average, a net profit of 125 million euros and EBITDA of 266 million.
The pace of store openings in Colombia, a market the retailer entered four years ago, more than doubled from the previous year, putting higher than expected pressure on earnings, it said.
For all of last year, net profit fell 35 percent due to a one-off gain in 2016 from the sale of its industrial unit Monterroio, but excluding one-offs Jeronimo Martins said its net profit rose 7 percent from a year earlier.
The company said that EBITDA margin - a key measure of profitability - at its Polish Biedronka chain edged higher to 7.3 percent last year from 7.2 percent in 2016, while same-store sales there increased 8.6 percent. ($1 = 0.8193 euros) ($1 = 0.8194 euros) (Reporting By Andrei Khalip; Editing by Susan Fenton)
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