Australian supermarket operator Metcash Trading Ltd forecast annual pre-tax profits from ongoing business to rise 45-55% on strong turnover growth.

Last year the group posted pre-tax profits worth A$58.7m (US$29.9m) last year, indicating expected profits for the year to 30 April 2002 at A$85m to A$90.99m. Metcash is the Australian division of South African retail giant Metcash Ltd.

Christmas trading was said to be excellent across all operating divisions. Sales grew robustly throughout the third quarter to the end of January compared with the same period in the previous financial year.

The IGA Distribution wholesale grocery arm returned sales up 39%, the Campbells Cash & Carry arm reported a more modest 9% sales growth and the Australian Liquor Marketers wholesaling division rose 6%.

“It is (expected) that, should sales continue to increase at this level and market and economic conditions remain as they are, then the profit before tax for continuing business for the year ending April 30, 2002 should reflect an increase of between 45 and 55% on the A$58.7m profit before tax of those businesses in the prior year,” the company said in the statement.

Metcash also commented that it had integrated capacity from its some 100 newly acquired Franklins stores without any additional infrastructure requirements, and expects about A$800m in incremental volume from Franklins on an annualised basis.