* Q1 organic sales growth 3.1 pct vs 5.1 pct in Q4 2016
* Q1 same-store French hypermarket sales down 1.9 pct
* Keeps 2017 profit growth goals
(Adds comments from CFO, detail)
By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS, April 18 Retailer Casino kept
its full-year profit growth goals on Tuesday, although
first-quarter sales growth slowed down due to signs of weakness
at the Geant Casino hypermarkets in France, while lower
inflation impacted its Brazilian business.
The French group added it was under no pressure to sell a
controlling stake in Brazilian business Via Varejo
although it declined to provide a timetable for the sale.
"The Brazilian climate is favourable. We have no pressure on
this asset, whose intrinsic value can only improve," chief
financial officer Antoine Giscard d'Estaing told reporters.
For 2017, Casino reiterated its prediction for growth of at
least 10 percent in group operating profit at current exchange
rates, having achieved a 3.7 percent rise in 2016.
Casino, whose credit rating was cut to junk by Standard &
Poor's in March 2016 and which has been criticised by U.S.
activist fund Muddy Waters, is under pressure to show it can
revive profits in France as conditions in Brazil remain tough.
Casino, which also controls Brazil's Grupo Pao de Acucar
, posted first-quarter sales of 9.321 billion euros
($9.92 billion). Shares in the company, which have risen around
13 percent so far in 2017, dipped by 0.7 percent.
Excluding acquisitions, currency effects and revenue on
fuel, sales rose by 3.1 percent, a slowdown from 5.1 percent
growth in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Casino has cut prices at home at its Geant hypermarkets
and reduced retail space for non-food items in response to
competition from online and smaller convenience stores, while it
has also increased its focus on organic and fresh food ranges.
However, same-store sales at the Geant Casino hypermarkets
in France fell 1.9 percent after rising 0.6 percent in the
fourth quarter of 2016, although the group's Monoprix, Franprix
and Casino-branded stores posted more robust performances.
In recession-hit Brazil, its second-biggest market by
revenue, food retail sales slowed to 9.8 percent, reflecting the
impact of a sharp fall in inflation and the closure of 20 stores
during the quarter. Lower inflation can result in consumers
delaying purchases in order to wait for even cheaper prices.
Giscard d'Estaing reiterated that for 2017, Casino still
aimed to grow operating profit at its food retail operations in
France by 15 percent. He also eyed a contribution from Casino's
property development operations of 60 million euros, compared to
87 million in 2016.
($1 = 0.9396 euros)
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)