July 25, 2019 / 6:44 PM / 23 days ago

Portuguese retailer Jeronimo Martins' profit rises 14%

LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese retailer Jeronimo Martins (JMT.LS) on Thursday reported a 14% rise in second-quarter net profit to 109 million euros ($122 million) after a late Easter helped to drive 10% sales growth.

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers at a Pingo Doce supermarket meat counter in Lisbon, Portugal, July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

The company, the largest food retailer in Poland and second-largest in Portugal, achieved 5.6% sales growth at its domestic Pingo Doce supermarket chain. In Poland, sales at its Biedronka supermarkets were up 12% while health and beauty chain Hebe registered a 29% sales leap.

Hebe’s sales increased despite eight fewer trading days because of a ban on Sunday trading introduced by the ruling Law and Justice party in March, Jeronimo Martins said.

“In line with our strategy, consumer focus and sales growth remain the group’s top priorities, without compromising cost discipline and the emphasis on efficiency to ensure the competitiveness and profitability of our business models,” said Chairman and CEO Pedro Soares dos Santos.

The company said that consumer demand in Poland “remained positive, benefiting from a strong labour market”.

Food inflation in Poland rose 4.7% in the second quarter.

However, challenges remain in Poland, where the government is gearing up to introduce a retail tax.

Under the scheme, retailers with monthly revenue of more than 170 million zlotys ($44 million) will be taxed more heavily than smaller rivals.

The tax proposal was shelved two years ago when the European Union executive ruled that it constituted illegal state aid to smaller businesses, but the General Court of the European Union overruled the decision, saying that variable tax rates depending on the size of companies were permissible.

The Polish government postponed discussions about the retail tax bill this month and is now planning to implement the tax from Sept. 1.

Jeronimo Martins’ first-half profit rose less than 1%.

Reporting by Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves; Editing by Jane Merriman and David Goodman

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