Portuguese retailer Jeronimo Martins has announced higher than expected sales and net profit for the first quarter of 2005, but warned that its planned domestic expansion had been held back by delays in receiving development permits, the AFX news agency reported.

Sales grew to €875.6m (US$1.13bn) from €781.8m in the same period in 2004. Net profit rose by 26.2% to €16.8m, equal to an 11.2% increase on a comparable basis allowing for the change to IFRS accounting rules from Portuguese standards.

"During 2005 the expansion team in Portugal will concentrate on preparing the licensing applications to be submitted at the various stages of the new openings approval process," the company said.

"The delay in obtaining the licences requested in 2004 has postponed the starting of the expansion plan of Pingo Doce and Feira Nova, and the new openings of these chains should only start having a significant impact on sales as from 2006," it said.

In Poland, first quarter sales at the company's Biedronka chain grew 16.3% in zlotys, equivalent to a 37.9% surge in euro terms because of the strengthening of the Polish currency.