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09-05-2012 08:49:00

J Sainsbury To Scale Back Expansion As Profit Falls Slightly

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LONDON -(Dow Jones)- J Sainsbury PLC (SBRY.LN) said Wednesday it will follow chief rival Tesco PLC (TSCO.LN) in scaling back new retail space growth in the coming year as the U.K. grocer reported a fall in full-year net profit but a market-beating increase in same-store sales.

"Whilst the wider economic situation remains uncertain, we remain confident that our clear strategy, market insight and strong values will enable us to make further progress both in our core food and non-food businesses," said Chief Executive Justin King.

Sainsbury, the U.K.'s No. 3 supermarket by market share behind Tesco and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT)-owned Asda Group Ltd., reported net profit of GBP598 million for the year to March 17, compared with GBP640 million a year earlier, on total sales 6.8% higher at GBP24.51 billion. Same-store sales--measured from shops open more than a year--excluding fuel rose 2.1%.

The retailer posted adjusted pretax profit--the performance indicator most analysts watch for--of GBP712 million, up from GBP665 million, slightly above consensus estimates of GBP701 million. The full-year dividend increased to 16.1 pence from 15.1 pence.

Sainsbury said it expects growth in new retail space to be around 5% in fiscal 2013, a climb down from the target of 15% it set in 2009.

Consumers have come under increasing pressure in recent months as the U.K. economy has nosedived back into recession and miserable weather has kept shoppers off the high street. Data released by the British Retail Consortium earlier Wednesday showed retail sales fell 3.3% in April, the biggest decline since March 2011.

Sainsbury's recent strategy has been built around its Brand Match promotion, which analysts have credited with attracting cash-strapped customers and helping the company gain market share on its rivals.

Latest data from Kantar, which monitors grocery purchasing habits, showed Sainsbury retain its share of the U.K. grocery market at 16.6%. In the last year, Sainsbury has taken customers away from market leader Tesco, while stretching its lead over fourth-placed Wm. Morrison Supermarkets PLC (MRW.LN).

-By Peter Evans, Dow Jones Newswires; 44-20-7842-9308; peter.evans@dowjones.com

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 09, 2012 02:49 ET (06:49 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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