An increase in fourth-quarter and full-year sales from French retail giant Carrefour were broadly in line with the expectations of the investment community, one analyst said today.

The firm this morning (15 January) said it would achieve its 2009 profit targets after reporting a 1% rise in sales in the last three months of the year, driven by stronger than expected growth in Latin America and despite the "difficult" trading environment.

Full-year sales in France dropped 2.8% to EUR41.3bn (US$59.4bn) in the year to December. On a like-for-like basis, sales in the country fell 2.9%.

Nicolas Champ, food retail analyst for Oddo et Cie, said the results were "broadly in line" with its forecasts and consensus figures.

"The stock should react positively to this release, especially since Carrefour guided for a 2009 operating profit at the top end of its target range and announced the appointment of James McCann, previously head of Tesco's Hungarian operations, as executive director for France," Champ said.

Carrefour's French hypermarket sales fell 5.3% on a like-for-like basis, excluding fuel, to EUR21.66bn. Amid rising unemployment, French consumers have been cutting back on discretionary spending, hitting non-food sales at hypermarkets.

However, overseas, like-for-like sales in Latin America increased 4.4% to EUR12.6bn. However, in Asia, like-for-like sales fell 0.4% to EUR8.6bn.

In the fourth-quarter sales rose 1% to EUR26m, versus Oddo's estimate of EUR26.9m.

"Internationally, sales remained firm in Latin America and improved in some Asian countries, such as China and Indonesia. But Western Europe's showing was relatively weak," Champ said.

"We are raising our target price from EUR30 to EUR32 but maintaining our 'reduce' recommendation," he added.

Carrefour shares were up 3.6% to EUR35.84 at 15:39 GMT today.