30 July 2013 - Australia's largest supermarket chain Woolworths Ltd on Tuesday reported a 4.3 percent increase in fourth-quarter total group sales year-on-year, even as food and liquor sales rose at a slower clip than the previous three months.
Sales for the quarter jumped 12.7 percent to A$14.1 billion ($12.98 billion) year-on-year, or 4.3 percent adjusted for Easter and the 53rd week, the company said in a statement.
Chief Executive Grant O'Brien said food and liquor sales momentum increased in the second half of the 2013 financial year, although the retail environment was tough due to consumer concerns about the state of the economy and low growth of disposable incomes.
"The fourth-quarter result was pleasing given these challenging economic conditions were particularly evident as the quarter progressed," O'Brien said in a statement.
Woolworths shares fell 2.4 percent in early trade, compared with a 0.2 percent pull-back in the broader market.
"They say in the statement they are really seeing quite challenging economic conditions in the fourth quarter, but there is no major justification" for the share price fall, said Evan Lucas, an analyst for IG in Melbourne.
Like-for-like food and liquor sales increased 2.9 percent for the fourth quarter, adjusted for Easter. The result followed a 3.8 percent rise in the third quarter, or 3.1 percent adjusted for Easter.
Online sales surged 42 percent for the year, or 38 percent adjusted for the 53rd week, the company added.
The company earlier this month raised its full-year net profit growth guidance to a range of 5 percent to 6 percent, the second upgrade this year.
Woolworths and Wesfarmers Ltd-owned Coles, which together control 80 percent of Australia's supermarket sector, have been competing to lure shoppers by slashing prices of basic items such as milk and bread.