German retailer Metro Group this morning (22 March) recorded record earnings during 2010, as cost savings boosted profitability.

The world’s fourth largest retailer reported a nearly 20% increase in EBIT before special items to reach EUR2.4bn.

For the year ended 31 December, sales were up 2.65% to EUR67bn, while it said that its Shape 2012 efficiency and value enhancement programme contributed EUR527m to earnings since its launch.

Meanwhile, reported net income was down to EUR492m against EUR540.1m in the previous year, which it attributed to a change in accounting practices.

In its German home market, sales adjusted for store disposals and divestments came in flat against the prior year. Before adjustment, sales fell by 1.4% to EUR26.1bn, which it attributed to poor weather conditions around the Christmas period.

In Western Europe, excluding Germany, sales were up 2.8% to EUR21.5bn, while Eastern European sales were up 1.5% in local currency to EUR16.9bn. In its Asia/Africa division sales were up 12.9% in local currency to EUR2.7bn.

With some 61% of sales outside its home market, Metro Group announced plans to accelerate its international expansion with plans to enter Indonesia with its Metro Cash & Carry format in 2012.

“We are continuing our international expansion at a faster pace and plan to open more than 110 new stores during the current year”, said Metro Group CEO Eckard Cordes. The company said that its focus will be on China, India and Russia. Metro Cash & Carry plans to double the number of its now almost 50 stores in China by 2015.

The company is forecasting a 4% increase in sales during 2011, “assuming an overall economic recovery and a moderate price increase, in particular in the fields of energy and raw materials”.