May 13, 2020 / 5:42 PM / 14 days ago

Jeronimo Martins posts sales growth during pandemic, future uncertain

LISBON, May 13 (Reuters) - Portuguese retailer Jeronimo Martins on Wednesday reported a strong 11% sales growth in the first quarter from a year ago, but said it was too early to evaluate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and suspended investment in new stores.

Jeronimo Martins’ chief executive Pedro Soares dos Santos said in a statement the firm ended the first quarter of the year with a “remarkable sales growth (...) even when tested by an unprecedented threat: the COVID-19 pandemic”.

In Poland, where the company’s unit Biedronka is the largest food retailer, sales rose 12.6% to 3.3 billion euros despite the Sunday ban regulation which resulted in three fewer trading days during the first three months of the year.

However, Soares dos Santos said it was still “hard to predict the scale and depth of the ultimate effects of the pandemic” on Jeronimo Martins, which also withdrew its results guidance for 2020 due to the uncertainty.

Overall net profit dropped 44% to 35 million euros during the first quarter compared to the same period last year, a result “strongly impacted by exchange rate differences”, the company it said in the statement. (Reporting by Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves, Editing by Andrei Khalip)

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