January 18, 2019 / 8:53 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-French retailer Casino weathers sales hit from protests, lifting shares

* Shares rise on positive reaction to Q4 figures

* 50 mln euro hit from French anti-government protests

* Casino maintains overall financial targets (Adds more detail and analyst comment)

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

PARIS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Casino’s shares rose on Friday after the supermarket group stuck to its financial targets, despite a 50 million euro ($57 million) hit to fourth quarter revenues from French anti-government protests.

The stock, which fell by 28 percent last year, was up 2.7 percent in early trading, also lifting shares in domestic rival Carrefour which rose around 1.6 percent.

Casino said on Thursday its revenue growth had slowed down slightly in the fourth quarter as demonstrations against the French government hit sales at its Geant hypermarkets, but it maintained its overall financial targets for 2018.

Fourth-quarter sales at Casino, which controls Brazil’s Grupo Pao de Acucar, reached 9.928 billion euros ($11.3 billion), above the 9.8 billion euros average in a consensus of 10 analysts’ forecasts compiled by the company.

“No real surprises emerged from the company’s Q4 sales despite a slight beat. France has held up well despite disruption from protests,” investment bank Jefferies, which kept a “hold” rating on Casino, said.

The French “yellow vest” protests cost Casino about 50 million euros in lost revenue.

For 2018, Casino has forecast organic growth above 10 percent in consolidated profit, excluding tax credits, and organic growth also above 10 percent in French operating profits, excluding real estate activities.

Bernstein kept an “underperform” rating on Casino shares, saying that despite the fourth-quarter performance, challenges remained in terms of concerns over its debts.

The stock price slump last year was partly over concerns about parent group Rallye’s ability to refinance its debts, and Casino is selling off assets to cut them. Casino’s shares are up around 2 percent so far in 2019.

“This is a good set of sales growth numbers (given the French protests) but it does not change our challenges to the financial reporting on which our ‘underperform’ thesis is based,” Bernstein said in a note. ($1 = 0.8775 euros) (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Alexander Smith)

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