Sainsbury's lifts full-year profit guidance after record Christmas sales

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Full-year returns will be ahead of consensus expectations Sainsbury's said

Online accounted for 20% of the Group's sales during the quarter.

Sainsbury's said it now expects to achieve between £80-85mln of EBITDA by March 2018, ahead of its previous guidance of £65mln.

Sainsbury's now expects its full-year underlying profit before tax to be "moderately ahead" of the published consensus.

Sainsbury's opened four Mini Habitat furniture stores during the period, bringing the total to 15.

United Kingdom grocer Sainsbury's says it has experienced a record week of trading during the Christmas period with "excellent" operations across the whole group.

Sainsbury's said third quarter retail like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, rose 1.1 percent - ahead of analysts' average forecast of 0.9 percent and growth of 0.6 percent in the previous quarter.

But it did say that total sales for groceries were up 2.3%, helped by strong performances from online shopping and convenience stores, while clothing was up 1% and general merchandise fell 1.4%.

Sainsbury's said that it had launched 185 new food lines for Christmas, had offered key Christmas vegetable lines for 25p and some of the lowest turkey prices in the market.

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However, the retailer conceded it was cautious about the forecast thanks to the challenging market conditions.

The active customer base in Sainsbury's Bank increased by 8.0% year-on-year in the period, with October the company's best ever new sales month for home insurance and November the best ever month for auto insurance.

On Wednesday discounter Lidl UK said its total sales grew 16 percent in the Christmas period.

"We have to acknowledge the fact that the (non-food) market is challenging and there's certainly a little bit of a squeeze on consumer disposable income and where people are able to defer purchases they do", Chief Executive Mike Coupe told reporters.

He added: "We delivered an excellent operational performance across the group, with great availability, strong customer satisfaction scores and our lowest level of waste ever at Christmas".

"Friday 22 was our biggest sales day for stores and we also delivered an online grocery order to customers every second".

In addition, the retailer's Argos stores, which Sainsbury's agreed to buy in 2016, performed well, with Argos registering record sales during the Black Friday period.

The supermarket's Taste the Difference range performed particularly well, with customers buying more food from the premium range than a year ago.

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