Canadian retailer Metro Inc has booked an increase in first-half earnings but warned of a challenging few quarters ahead.

In the three months ended 16 March, net profit amounted to C$488.2m (US$476m) compared to earnings of C$199.8m last year, the retailer reported today (24 April). EBITDA was up 4% to C$368.2m.

Sales in the 24-week period reached C$5.22bn, 1% up on the prior year. Metro said the marginal increase was the result of very low food inflation, increased competition, the closure of underperforming stores, and temporary problems at its pharmaceutical product warehouse.

“We are pleased with our 2013 second quarter net earnings growth which was achieved despite the Christmas week sales shift versus last year,” said CEO Eric La Flèche. “The competitive environment will remain challenging in the coming quarters and we will continue to execute our customer-focused strategies and exercise good cost control to continue on our growth path.”