Spar of South Africa first-half profit rises 5% as sales improve

Spar Group Ltd. said first half-profit rose 5.3 percent as the South African food and liquor retailer increased sales despite a difficult consumer environment in its home market.

Net income was 825.4 million rand ($52.6 million) in the six months through March, Durban-based Spar said in a statement on Wednesday. Revenue gained 17 percent to 42.5 billion rand.

Spar has been expanding outside South Africa to counter slower economic growth in its home market, which is weighed down by weak commodity prices and rising unemployment. The grocer agreed in March to buy a majority stake in the company that owns the Spar brand in Switzerland, after acquiring the equivalent chain in Ireland and southwest England two years ago. International acquisitions generate revenue in currencies other than the rand, which has weakened 24 percent against the dollar in the past 12 months.

“In South Africa, trading is expected to remain under pressure with constrained consumer spending and persistent high levels of unemployment,” the company said. “The continued Irish economic recovery provides a solid underpinning for the BWG Group to extend its positive performance for the remainder of the financial year as Europe heads into the summer holiday season.”

The acquisition of Spar Switzerland will also make a positive contribution to performance this financial year, it said.

Spar shares have gained 15 percent this year, in line with the FTSE/JSE Africa Food & Drug Retailers index.