French retailer Casino has reported a 0.5% rise in 2003 sales to €22.98bn (US$28.9bn) on a reported basis, a rise of 5.0% at constant currencies.

In France, which accounts for 80% of total group sales, 2003 sales rose 4.4% on a reported basis to €18.28bn. Casino said that in the final quarter and over the full year it had outperformed its competitors in France and gained further market share.

The French Discount and Superette store chains reported sales growth of 10.0% and 11.5% respectively. As the group’s most profitable formats, the two chains are the priority for development and represented three-quarters of new retail space opened by Casino in 2003, the retailer said.

Casino said international organic sales growth was “very satisfactory” rising 8.8% in the fourth quarter and 7.2% over the full year. Total international sales fell 12.2% when converted into euros.

The company said the rebound in business reflected improving economic conditions in Asia, the US and Latin America, as well as the effect of measures taken in countries where operations had been experiencing difficulties. The exception was Poland, where the company’s recovery plan has not yet had an impact on results but where an improvement is expected in the first half of 2004.