LONDON (Reuters) – British supermarket group Sainsbury’s on Tuesday beat expectations for first-quarter sales though growth did slow sharply reflecting a tough comparison with last year when shoppers stocked-up for a first COVID-19 lockdown.
The group, which trails market leader Tesco in annual sales, said like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, rose 1.6% in the 16 weeks to June 26, its fiscal first quarter – versus analysts’ average forecast of a fall of 1.7% and a rise of 11.3% in the previous quarter.
Sainsbury’s said sales of grocery, general merchandise and clothing were all higher than its expectations throughout the quarter. It said it outperformed competitors and grew market share.
It said it had further tough comparables ahead as pandemic restrictions continue to ease and customer behaviour normalises.
Sainsbury’s said it expected to report underlying profit before tax of at least 660 million pounds ($917 million) in the 2021-22 year, up from 356 million pounds in 2020-21.
Shares in Sainsbury’s are up 23% so far this year, buoyed by bid speculation.
That started in April when Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky raised his stake to just under 10% and has been fueled over the last two weeks by a bid battle for rival Morrisons.
($1 = 0.7196 pounds)
(Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle and Kate Holton)