Australian grocery retailer Woolworths has reported a 14.4% increase in sales from continuing operations for the first quarter.

For the 14 weeks to 2 October 2005, sales were A$8.88bn (US$6.64bn), compared to $7.77bn in the same period of the previous year. Food and liquor sales rose 8.3% to $6.47bn. Comparable (like-for-like) store sales in food and liquor for the quarter were up 3.2% on last year’s first quarter.

“First quarter sales growth for the group was a solid result, with comparable sales continuing along similar trends to those seen during the fourth quarter last year. However, as foreshadowed in our previous sales release the discretionary end of the market has tightened as a result of higher petrol prices,” said CEO Roger Corbett.

“Given the continuance of the trading patterns of the first quarter, and the maintenance of the present business and economic climate, Woolworths expects sales from continuing operations for the full year to grow in the upper single digits, with net profit after tax growing in the lower double digits (excluding Foodland). We therefore maintain our earnings guidance for the full year 2005/6 as previously reported,” he added.

Woolworths also said that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has decided not to oppose the retailer’s acquisition of 19 Action stores and three development sites from Foodland Associated.

“The ACCC conducted an exhaustive, rigorous and thorough review of this acquisition in two phases. Woolworths has actively co-operated with the ACCC throughout its inquiry. We are very pleased that the ACCC has concluded that the Woolworths acquisition is not likely to substantially lessen competition in any market,” said Corbett.