French retailer Auchan today (23 March) posted rising full-year earnings, driven by the company’s “brisk” pace of expansion, particularly in China and Eastern Europe, and better sales at its hypermarket business.

EBITDA grew 9.6% to EUR2.26bn, or 5.7% of sales excluding taxes.

Auchan’s domestic earnings were up 4.3% thanks to a “good performance” at the retailer’s hypermarket business, which posted a 2.7% increase in sales, the company said.

Overall, Auchan said total hypermarket sales grew 8.4% to EUR39.5bn. During the fiscal year, the company opened or acquired 60 hypermarkets – primarily in China and Russia.

In order to fuel growth, Auchan increased its level of investment by 20.9% to EUR2.1bn.

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During the year, Auchan also opened 37 new supermarkets. The company said growth at its supermarket business was driven by Eastern European markets and supermarkets converted to its Simply Market banner. 

“The group’s satisfactory performance in 2008 demonstrates its capacity to resist an unfavourable environment,” said chairman Christophe Dubrulle.

“Our position as a family owned business, our organisation into independent business lines, our capacity to innovate and our customer-oriented approach are fundamentals on which we can build out long-term polices. We are still convinced that the complimentary nature of our discount networks – large hypermarkets offering a wide range of products and neighbourhood supermarkets – meets our customers’ expectations.”

Looking to 2009, Auchan said that it expects to open 50 hypermarkets and accelerate the conversion of its supermarkets to the Simply Market banner.

“We are aware that 2009 will not be an easy year. We shall continue to conduct our discount retail business with professionalism while remaining very vigilant with regard to investment and debt levels. We therefore look to the rest of 2009 with confidence and serenity,” Dubrulle said.