Shares in Woolworths Ltd rose by 3.68% to a value of AUS$17.180 (US$12.94) per share after the company reported first-half sales of AUS$19bn. This represents an increase of AUS$2.9bn, or 18.9%.

Sales for the half year in the supermarket division totalled AUS$16.1bn, an increase of 17.7%. Of the company's other concerns, the biggest increase was seen in the sale of petrol, which increased by 35.6%, reflecting higher prices - litres sold increased by only 15.4%.

"Given the continuance of the trading patterns of the first half, and the maintenance of the present business and economic climate, Woolworths expects sales from continuing operations for the full year to grow in the upper single digits, with net profit after tax increasing in the range of 10% to 15%," said CEO Roger Corbett. "We therefore maintain our earnings guidance for 2005/6 as previously reported."