French retail group Carrefour SA has reported a 10.8% rise in first-half net profits to EUR706m (US$m901m), on sales (excl VAT) 8.8% higher at EUR37.3bn. The first-half result was in line with expectations, the company said.

Carrefour said sales had grown by 7.5% at constant exchange rates, while revenues in France, where the company derives about half of its turnover, had risen by 6.2%.

The company added that during the first half it had strengthened its asset portfolio through tactical acquisitions in Italy and Spain, the integration of Hyparlo and of the Penny Market stores in France, as well as the divestment of its activities in Korea.

The increase in interest rates and in group debt explains the rise in financial charges in the half, up by 12% to EUR241m, the company said. Tax charges remained broadly in line with the 2005 full fiscal year.

Carrefour also reiterated its forecasts for 2006 to 2008. The world’s second largest retailer confirmed that it planned to open 100 hypermarkets during 2006 and forecast that it would increase sales at constant exchange rates at a faster rate than reported in 2005.

“In an environment characterised by fierce competition and weak consumption, we remain focused, more than ever, on our key priorities: customers and growth,” the company said.

Carrefour said it was confident of an acceleration in growth in 2007, adding that it planned to open 100 new hypermarkets in both 2007 and 2008.