Chile’s largest supermarket chain D&S has forecast that its 2003 profits will increase 50% from last year as consumer spending increases and the company opens new outlets.

D&S, which has a 30.4% share of supermarket sales in Chile, posted net profit of US$45m in 2002, down 41.3% from 2001.

Domestic spending in Chile has weakened in recent years because of an economic slowdown, but figures have recently begun showing signs of recovery, reported Reuters.

Supermarket sales rose 9.4% in the January to March quarter, compared to the same quarter in 2002.

As of next month D&S will operate its Almac, Ekono and Lider supermarket chains under the same Lider name in order to save costs.