French retailer Groupe Casino has vowed to boost its profitability and cash flow further this year and push on with its asset disposal plan to reduce debts.
Casino achieved a 2020 group operating profit of €1.426 billion, up 25.2% at constant exchange rates, helped by cost savings and higher sales in top markets France and Brazil.
Sales rose to €31.9 billion, up 8% on a same-store basis.
Food retailers across the world have benefited from the demand generated by the COVID-19 lockdowns, which have forced consumers to stay at home. This has strongly benefited Casino's convenience stores in city centres and its E-commerce business.
Casino, which also controls Brazil's Grupo Pao de Acucar , has been selling assets to reduce debt. It said it had lowered its gross debt by €1.3 billion to €4.8 billion at end-2020, beating a target of €5 billion.
The group has sold €2.8 billion in assets, including several hundred discount Leader Price stores to German rival Aldi.
Casino said that in view of the successful development of its activities in France, it had "greater flexibility" in implementing its asset disposal plan, for which it confirmed a target of €4.5 billion.
Casino, which will not pay a dividend for 2020, said it was targeting an increase in free cash flow for 2021, having achieved €288 million in free cash in 2020.
To boost profitability Casino is banking on monetising client data, savings from purchasing deals and a greater focus on e-commerce, organic food, convenience stores and energy services.
It has been expanding online through a deal to use British online retailer Ocado’s fulfillment platform, while its Monoprix supermarket arm has a deal with Amazon to sell groceries.
Last week larger domestic rival Carrefour reported a 16.4% rise in 2020 recurring operating profit to €2.17 billion and said it had achieved its best sales performance in 20 years.
News by Reuters, edited by ESM. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.