Australian food retailer Woolworths has posted a 17% rise in first-half profit, helped by cost cuts and higher sales.

Net profit for the 28 weeks to 12 January was A$372m (US$224.5m), compared to $317m a year earlier, on sales up 13% to $12bn.

Woolworths also announced its plans to buy back $500m to $600m of its shares off-market, or 4% to 6% of its 1.06bn shares on issue.

CEO Roger Corbett said the buyback would not restrict any future acquisitions by the retailer.