PARIS, March 7 (Reuters) - French retailer Casino said on Tuesday it aimed to continue growing sales and earnings in 2017 thanks to cost savings and improving sales in France and Brazil, as it posted higher annual profits.
Casino made the forecast after reporting a rise in 2016 operating profit, which reflected a stronger performance in its core French market.
Casino, whose credit rating was cut to junk by Standard & Poor's in March 2016 and has been criticised by U.S. activist fund Muddy Waters, is under pressure to show it can revive profits in France at a time of slower growth in Brazil.
It kept its dividend unchanged at 3.12 euros and delivered a sharp cut in its debt following asset sales.
Operating income rose to 1.034 billion euros ($1.1 billion)against a restated figure of 997 million euros for 2015, broadly in line with analysts expectations of 1.046 billion euros in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll.
Casino said its French operations achieved operating profits of 508 million euros in 2016, in line with the company's guidance for profits of slightly over 500 million euros.
$1 = 0.9449 euros Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta