South African retailer Metro Cash and Carry has reported a 29% rise in full-year earnings, boosted by its overseas operations, and forecast solid growth.

The company said headline earnings per share (EPS), which strip out exceptional items and their tax effects, increased to 26.18 cents for the 12 months to 30 April 2003, compared with 20.23 cents in the previous year.

Metcash reported a 20% rise in turnover to 51.8bn rand (US$6.37bn) from 43bn rand a year earlier.

"Notwithstanding the generally poor economic climate, the volatile currency and the various uncertainties confronting the international community, the group has laid a sound foundation for the future," Metcash was quoted by Reuters as saying.

"This, coupled with the group's improved gearing position, should result in solid future growth and earnings," the company added.

The retailer attributed part of its strong performance to its Australian operation Metcash Trading, which recently reported a 41% rise in annual profits.