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Metro Group has said that it expects to see a “tangible” increase in profits in the coming year despite this morning (17 March) posting a drop in earnings for fiscal 2009.

The German retailer said that EBIT before special items declined by 8.9% to EUR2.02bn (US$2.79bn) in 2009. However, Metro emphasised that this beat market expectations of EUR1.97bn.

Net income dropped 7%, declining to EUR519m from EUR558m in 2008.

Sales fell at the majority of the company’s divisions, including its struggling wholesale unit, driving total revenues down 3.6% to EUR66bn.

Excluding currency exchange, sales would have gained 0.2%, the company said.

“We have weathered the most severe economic crisis in 80 years. This is something the whole group can be proud of,” Eckhard Cordes, Metro’s chief executive, said.

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During the year, Metro opened 80 new stores worldwide. Metro plans to open an additional 95 stores in the coming year, entering the Egyptian and Chinese markets.

The company said that it has also made progress on its Shape 2012 cost-cutting programme, which has contributed EUR208m to earnings. Metro has targeted savings of EUR1.5bn through the cost cutting plan by 2012.

“The comprehensive reorganisation of the group bore, gratifyingly fast, fruit,” Cordes said. “Shape 2012 is well on track and we expect a tangible increase in earnings in 2010.”

Click here for the full earnings release from Metro or click here to find out more about the retailer’s international plans.