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Carrefour 2008 net profit down 45 percent

CARREFOUR SA, the world's No. 2 retailer, said today net profit slid 45 percent as the company was forced to cut prices in its French home market where the crisis knocked consumer confidence.

Carrefour, second only to US-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. among the world's biggest retailers, said 2008 net profit fell to US$1.62 billion from US$2.94 billion a year earlier.

Sales rose 5.9 percent - or 6.4 percent at constant exchange rates - to US$111.2 billion.

What Carrefour calls activity contribution, or operating profit, rose 0.3 percent to US$4.22 billion.

The results are in line with a revised December forecast of a 6.5 percent growth in sales at constant exchange rates and a slight growth in operating profit.

Before then, Carrefour had been promising to deliver operating profit growth "in line" with its sales, which rose 5.7 percent last year.

Looking ahead, chief financial officer Eric Reiss said in a conference call: "We expect the situation to remain difficult in 2009."

The company didn't give an earnings forecast.

"In a trading environment that remains challenging, we will focus on boosting our sales dynamics while improving our organization and reducing our costs," the company's new CEO Lars Olofsson said in a statement.

France accounts for about 40 percent of Carrefour's sales. It operates a total of 5,517 stores here, including hypermarkets, supermarkets, hard discount stores and convenience shops.


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