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Woolworths Shares Rise as Growth in Food Sales Accelerates

Woolworths Holdings Ltd., a South African food and clothing retailer, rose in Johannesburg after saying growth in food sales accelerated from a year earlier.

The stock advanced 3.8 percent to 74.94 rand by the close of trading, the highest since Nov. 1. Woolworths had the biggest gain today on the 11-member FTSE/JSE Africa General Retailers Index.

Food sales increased 17 percent in the 20 weeks through Nov. 17, the Cape Town-based company said in a statement today. That compares with an 11 percent gain during the comparable period a year earlier. Clothing sales in South Africa rose by 11 percent.

“Woolworths seems to continue to gain market share and it’s seen as one of the better-managed retailers,” Ferdi Heyneke, a trader at Afrifocus Securities Ltd., said by phone from Johannesburg today. “The market they serve is a segment that is resilient to the general slowdown.”

Consumer confidence in Africa’s largest economy dropped to a 10-year low in the third quarter as inflationary pressures curbed spending.

Sales in Australia and New Zealand rose 51 percent in Australian dollar terms, up from 37 percent a year earlier. Woolworths owns the Country Road brand in the region.

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