Australian grocery retailer Woolworths has reported a 12.2% rise in annual sales to A$31.4bn (US$23.7bn), and said full-year results were "very pleasing" overall.

Net profit after tax rose 14.9% to $790.5m for the year to 26 June, at the top end of the company's earnings guidance. The company said strong profit growth was built on strengthened sales growth underpinned by continued cost reductions.

Total sales at Woolworths' supermarkets division rose to $26.9bn from $24.2bn a year earlier. Twenty-two new supermarkets were opened during the year with trading area for the division growing by 3.4%. Food and liquor sales grew 5.2%, while food and liquor comparable store sales grew 3.1%.

For full-year 2006, Woolworths said it expects that sales will grow in the upper single digits, while net profit after tax is expected to increase in the lower double digits. The company said its trading area is expected to grow between 3% and 5% over the foreseeable future.