Retailer Metro hit by weak sales

Germany's Metro, one of the world's largest retailers, posted disappointing second-quarter results on Tuesday that underscored weak western European markets and problems at the group's electronics outlets.

Retailer Metro hit by weak sales
Photo: DPA

Net profit fell nine percent to €40 million ($57 million), about half the level forecast by a Dow Jones Newswires analyst poll.

Metro’s operating profit came to €306 million, well below a forecast for around €340 million, on sales flat at €15.7 billion.

Shares in the group were lower, dropping 0.56 percent to €37.60 while the DAX index of German blue-chips was 0.41 percent lower overall.

Last week, Metro cut its full-year forecast and chief executive Ekhard Cordes said Tuesday it would “step up the strategic realignment with regard to the online business” of its electronics outlets Saturn and Media Markt.

“Although the economy has continued to recover, the ongoing concerns about the European debt crisis are having a significant impact on consumer confidence,” a statement said.

Metro nonetheless remained “confident that it will be able to achieve earnings growth before special items of around 10 percent” from the 2010 figure of €2.42 billion.

A global giant alongside Walmart, Carrefour and Tesco, Metro has suffered from government austerity programmes in Greece, Italy and Spain.

The situation was also less than rosy in its home market despite signs of a consumer rebound in June while the opening of Metro’s first store in Egypt has been hampered by unrest there.

The Media-Saturn division posted a second-quarter loss in core earnings of €44 million, compared with a profit of €41 million in the same period of 2010.

For the group as a whole, second-quarter earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) and special items were down eight percent at €306 million.

The group is pursuing international expansion plans, however, with the launch of five new stores in the first half of the year in China, Russia and Turkey. It plans to open its first signature Metro Cash & Carry story in Indonesia next year.


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German Amazon workers strike on ‘Black Friday’

Amazon workers in Germany started a three-day strike Thursday timed to disrupt the online retailer's "Black Friday" sales bonanza.

German Amazon workers strike on 'Black Friday'
Signs for the Amazon strike in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

The strike, called by the powerful Verdi union, is set to last until Saturday and marks the latest escalation in a years-long battle with Amazon for better pay and working conditions.

“We estimate that around 2,500 people went on strike today, a higher number than in similar actions in the past and given the difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic, it's a big success,” a Verdi spokesman told AFP.

To limit the risk of Covid-19 infections, the union said it was not staging any rallies during the strike.

Amazon in a statement said the walkouts were not affecting customer deliveries since “the majority of employees are working as normal”.

The stoppage affected Amazon distribution facilities in Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld, Augsburg, Rheinberg, Werne and Koblenz.

Verdi has long wanted Amazon to sign on to regional wage agreements covering retail and e-commerce, and has organised numerous walkouts in recent years.

It also wants Amazon to improve health and safety at work, accusing the retail giant of not doing enough to protect staff from the coronavirus at some of its German sites.

Amazon defended its policies, saying it offered “excellent” wages, benefits and career opportunities in a “modern, safe” work environment.

The company employs more than 16,000 people in Germany and has taken on an additional 10,000 seasonal employees to cope with a boom in online shopping triggered by the pandemic.