Asda, the UK unit of Wal-Mart, has said that its focus on competitive pricing has increased its share of the UK market.

In the third quarter ended 30 September, Asda saw like-for-like sales rise 5.6%, driving up the group's market share to 17.3%, from 16.9% last year.

In a statement released yesterday (12 November), Asda claimed that it has extended its "price leadership" over its rivals, which has resulted in rising sales volumes.

"Asda continues to be in excellent health, with every part of the business - food, home and leisure, and clothing - all outperforming their respective markets," Judith McKenna, chief finance officer, said.

"We've once again taken the lead in lowering prices more quickly than our rivals and by a greater amount. More customers with fuller baskets demonstrates increasing loyalty amongst our customers, who are taking advantage of the wider choice under one roof."

Asda said that it intended to attract more customers over Christmas by lowering the prices of gift and electrical items. The company pledged to "cut the cost of Christmas" by GBP150m (US$250.3m).

The company, the UK's second-largest supermarket operator, also said that profits were growing ahead of sales, despite its investments in lowering prices.

Asda's parent Wal-Mart said yesterday that profits rose to US$0.84 per share, exceeding consensus analyst estimates of $0.81 and last year's earnings of $0.77 per share.

Wal-Mart's net sales in the three months to 31 October rose 1.1% to $98.7bn. However, same-store sales declined 0.4%.