Woolworths First-Half Earnings Jump as Clothing Sales Advance

Woolworths Holdings Ltd., a South African food and clothing retailer, expects earnings per share increased 18 percent to 24 percent in its fiscal first half as clothing revenue advanced and domestic and foreign sales grew.

Sales in the 26 weeks through Dec. 23 rose 18 percent from a year earlier, while sales in comparable stores advanced 9.4 percent, the Cape Town-based company said in a statement today.

Woolworths shares jumped as much as 5.2 percent, the biggest intraday gain since Aug. 24. The stock traded 1.8 percent higher at 64.63 rand at 10:19 a.m. in Johannesburg.

The sales growth bucked a recent trend of under performance among South African retailers as high unemployment and a slowdown in economic growth weighed on consumer spending. Shoprite Holdings Ltd., the country’s largest food retailer by market value, and AVI Ltd. have both disappointed the market this week, prompting a wider sell-off in the industry.

Woolworths said clothing sales in South Africa advanced by 13 percent. Food sales rose by 11 percent and general merchandise climbed 7.7 percent. Sales in Australia and New Zealand increased 56 percent in Australian dollars. The company is not associated with the Australian retailer of the same name.

Woolworth’s retail space, including stores in the rest of Africa, rose 5.7 percent.

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