Asda sales growth slows, but turnaround remains on track

Supermarket giant Asda saw its sales growth slow markedly over its Christmas quarter, but cheered further progress in its recovery.

The group, which is owned by US giant Walmart, posted a 0.5% rise in like-for-like sales for the final quarter of 2017 - down sharply on the 1.1% growth seen in the previous three months.

New boss Roger Burnley, who took the helm as Asda's president and chief executive in January, said staff should be "proud" of the performance, which marked its fourth quarter of improving sales amid a turnaround at the chain.

Asda is the last of the Big Four supermarkets to report festive trading figures, with Tesco having emerged as the winner with a 2.3% rise in comparable sales over its Christmas quarter, while Sainsbury's posted a 1.1% quarterly increase and Morrisons saw a 2.1% hike in retail sales over the 10 weeks to January 7.

Walmart chief executive Doug McMillon said: "In the UK, Asda delivered positive comp sales again this quarter, with particular strength during the Christmas period.

"We know we have more work to do in the UK, however we are encouraged by recent results in key areas of our business," he added.

Mr Burnley said: "Moving into 2018, we remain absolutely focused on doing the right things for our customers to accelerate our momentum and build trust."

It comes as owner Walmart posted results in the US showing a 42.1% drop in fourth-quarter profits to 2.17 billion US dollars (£1.6 billion), weighed down by restructuring charges and bonuses delivered to its workers.

Annual profits fell 28% to 9.9 billion US dollars (£7.1 billion), while its international arm including Asda saw a 7.1% fall in operating income last year to 5.4 billion US dollars (£3.9 billion).

Asda has been leading a turnaround in an attempt to improve sales amid a long-running supermarket price war.

The 645-strong chain has also been axing jobs in the UK, announcing last month that another 28 roles will go at its head office on top of the 300 job losses revealed in September as part of a major cost-cutting drive.

The group has been among the losers in the battle for sales, as German rivals Aldi and Lidl steal a march on the so called Big Four grocers.

But a combination of price cuts and rising inflation has helped end a previous long run of sales declines at Asda.

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