230909 Woolworths in woodmead.photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi

Bloomberg - Woolworths, a South African food and clothing retailer, said first-half profit climbed 21 percent as sales increased.

Earnings per share excluding one-time items advanced to 1.23 billion rand ($139 million), or 1.64 rand a share, in the six months through December 23 from 1.01 billion rand, or 1.36 rand a share a year earlier, the Cape Town-based company said in a statement today.

Revenue rose 18 percent to 16.8 billion rand. Sales at stores open for more than a year climbed 9.4 percent.

“Economic conditions in South Africa will remain constrained, especially in the lower- and middle-income segments of the market where consumer debt levels remain under pressure,” the company said.

“The upper-income segment in which we operate continues to show some resilience. Trading for the first six weeks of the second half of the financial year has been positive, and we expect sales growth to be broadly in line with the first half.”

Retail-sales growth in Africa’s biggest economy, where one in four people is unemployed, slowed to 2.3 percent in December as quickening inflation curbed consumer demand.

The economy will expand 2.6 percent this year, near the estimated growth of 2.5 percent last year, which would be the lowest since a 2009 recession, the central bank said Jan. 24.

Woolworths, which has the biggest weighting in the FTSE/JSE Africa General Retailers Index at 28 percent, slipped 0.1 percent to 67.15 rand by the close in Johannesburg yesterday, extending the decline this year to 5.4 percent. - Bloomberg