Europe's largest food retailer, Carrefour, has said that it is confident about the coming year as it posted a record free cash flow of €1.262 billion, and a further rise in operating profit last year, despite high inflation.
The French retailer predicted further growth across its main three indicators – earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), recurring operating income and net free cash flow – this year.
Good results and strong cash generation allowed Carrefour to hand investors an 8% dividend hike to 0.56 euros per share and launch a new share buyback scheme worth €800 million, the company said.
The company also reported a 4.6% rise in 2022 recurring operating income to €2.377 billion at constant exchange rates, slightly above the €2.34 billion analyst consensus compiled by Refinitiv.
Sales growth for the full year was up 16.1% on a reported basis and up 8.5% on a like-for-like basis.
In the company's core French market, where its hypermarkets' low-cost offering attracted buyers grappling with high inflation, operating profit rose 10.2% to €834 million.
Finance Chief Matthieu Malige said Carrefour was confident it could deliver on its 3% operaing margin target for the French business in the medium-term, having achieved 2.2% in 2022.
In Brazil, Carrefour's second-largest market, operating profit rose 9% at constant exchange rates, though its margin was down 111 basis points owing to expenses related to integration of Grupo BIG and accelerated store conversions.
"Carrefour once again demonstrated the strength of its model by delivering a remarkable performance in 2022 in an unprecedented inflationary environment," commented Alexandre Bompard, chairman and CEO. "The pillars of the Carrefour 2022 plan allowed us to offer solutions to customers to address pressure on purchasing power, while staying the course on the food transition for all and maintaining strict financial discipline.
"Over the past five years, the Group has succeeded in repositioning itself as a leader in its industry. This transformation stems from the hard work and exceptional everyday commitment of Carrefour teams and franchised partners in our stores, warehouses and headquarters."
Bompard added that with the group's new Carrefour 2026 plan, announced recently, the retailer would be embarking on a "new phase of conquest", ramping up its digital and discount offer, as well as adhering to new social and environmental commitments.
"In 2023, Carrefour will continue to differentiate itself for the benefit of its customers and shareholders," he added.