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PARIS (Reuters) – Carrefour said on Wednesday it was confident it would achieve the strategic goals set under its turnaround plan after its sales growth accelerated in the first quarter, thanks notably to strong growth in Brazil.

Europe’s largest food retailer reiterated a target to generate free cash flow above 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in 2022 and with cost inflation accelerating, said it now aimed for more than 900 million euros in cost savings this year.

Carrefour also said that having achieved 400 million euros on the 750 million euros share buyback programme it announced in February, it would launch the second tranche in the coming days.

Cash is key to the French food retailer’s plans to step up its digital commerce expansion without the extra financial resources that would have been on hand if two planned tie-ups last year had not failed – one with Canada’s Couche-Tard and one with France’s Auchan

Carrefour reported that its first quarter sales reached 20.239 billion euros ($22 billion), marking like-for-like growth of 3.4%, driven by solid growth in Brazil and Spain while in the core French market sales were flat.

This was an acceleration from 0.7% sales growth for the group in the fourth quarter 2021.

Carrefour is in the last leg of a five-year plan begun in January 2018 to cut costs and boost e-commerce investment to improve profit and sales, as it battles online rivals such as Amazon and discounters like Lidl and unlisted Leclerc.

Chairman and CEO Alexandre Bompard, whom Carrefour reappointed in May 2021 for another three years, is working on a new strategic plan and an asset review as part of the process.

Carrefour shares have gained 27% so far this year, but still trade 7% below their level when Bompard took over in July 2017.

($1 = 0.9212 euros)


(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by David Evans and Alexander Smith)

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