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Carrefour sales accelerate with Brazil, Spain

Carrefour, Europe's biggest retailer, said underlying sales growth accelerated in the first quarter, driven by Brazil, the group's second largest market after France, while sales in austerity-hit Spain rose for the second consecutive quarter.

Sales at closely-watched French hypermarkets slowed amid a price war, however, while China, another key emerging market Carrefour has earmarked for expansion, also stayed weak.

Philippe Huguen | AFP/Getty Images

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Chief Financial Officer Pierre-Jean Sivignon said on Thursday that Carrefour saw the market's consensus for core operating profit of around 2.38 billion euros this year as "reasonable at this stage".

Carrefour is battling to reverse years of under performance in Europe, where it earns 73 percent of its sales. Its problems are partly due to a reliance on the hypermarket format it once pioneered now that customers' habits have changed to favour more local and online shopping.

The world's largest retailer after Wal-Mart said first-quarter sales were 19.79 billion euros, close to the analyst consensus of 19.83 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.

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First-quarter sales were also dented by a later Easter holiday, which is in April this year instead of March last year, and lower petrol prices.

Excluding these factors, like-for-like sales growth was 3.7 percent in the quarter, an acceleration from 3.2 percent growth in the fourth quarter 2013.

This was Carrefour's "best underlying quarterly sales growth performance in over two years", Sivignon said.

In France, which accounts for almost half of group revenues, same-store sales at Carrefour's hypermarkets rose 0.7 percent, a slowdown from a 1.4 percent rise in the fourth quarter 2013.

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In Spain, Carrefour's third-largest market, sales grew 0.6 percent like for like after rising 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter, in what was the country's first growth in five years.

Carrefour said like-for-like sales growth in Brazil accelerated to 6.4 percent from 5.8 percent growth in the fourth quarter.

Sales at Chinese stores open over a year fell 3.1 percent in the first quarter, a decline similar to that of the fourth quarter.

Carrefour shares have risen 0.7 percent this year to close at 29.02 euros on Wednesday, giving the group a market capitalisation of 21 billion euros.

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