Boosted by an improved performance in its home market, French retailer Carrefour saw sales increase by 6.8% to EUR22.1bn (US$27.7bn) in the third quarter, falling just short of estimates.

Sales at its French business, which accounts for nearly half of all sales, rose by 5.3% to EUR10.6bn, aided by store openings. Like-for-like sales were up 2.4%. The retailer also managed to turn around its non-food sales, which rose 1.8% compared to a loss of 3% in the second quarter of this year.

According to TNS Secodip, the group continued to win food market share in France. In the period from 19 June to 10 September, market share grew 0.3% for the group. Overall, cumulatively since the beginning of the year, the group has gained 0.7% of food market share.

European sales outside France increased by 8.4% on constant exchange rates. European sales totalled EUR8.4bn. Gains, the company said, were mainly driven by a solid performance in Spain in all activities, and by Belgium, which shows the first signs of improvement across all formats.

Latin American sales were up 9.9% and Asian sales increased 14%. The company said that in these regions it experienced "new engines for growth", particularly in Colombia, Indonesia and China. However, Carrefour's performance in Brazil and Taiwan was weak, the company observed.

Carrefour stuck to its stated full year guidance, but said that fierce competition in Europe and a "challenging" French market caused it to err on the side of caution. For the full year, Carrefour said it expects sales at constant exchange rates to exceed those reported in 2005, when they rose by 4.3%. The company said that it intends to accelerate new store openings, suggesting that it would open its 1,000th hypermarket in China this year. The company intends to increase the rate of openings to about 100 per year worldwide.

"We are confident that we will achieve our objectives for 2006: faster sales growth than in 2005 on constant exchange rates and an increase in Activity Contribution, although at a slower rate than sales," the company said.