Sainsbury's Reveals Buoyant Christmas Sales

LONDON -- The shares of J Sainsbury  (NASDAQOTH: JSAIY) dipped 2 pence to 337 pence during early London trading this morning after the supermarket issued its Christmas trading statement.

Sainsbury's declared the week before Christmas had seen the company's strongest trading ever, with customer transactions exceeding 27 million.

The festive performance helped the retailer lift total turnover by 3.9% during the 14 weeks to Jan. 5.

The FTSE 100 member said like-for-like sales had improved by 1.5% during the same period, which extended the group's run of consecutive quarters of like-for-like growth to 32.

However, the 1.5% like-for-like figure was less than the 1.7% the supermarket recorded during the preceding six months.

Justin King, the chief executive of Sainsbury's, said: "This Christmas we have helped more customers than ever to Live Well for Less, delivering another quarter of good sales in a challenging retail environment, increasing market share. Like-for-like sales excluding fuel were up 0.9 per cent, which was on top of a very strong Christmas last year, giving a two-year like-for-like growth figure of 2.9 per cent."

King added that particular best-sellers included clothing, up 10%, crockery, up 15%, and toasters, up 24%.

Before today, City experts were expecting the retailer's current-year earnings to increase by about 5% to almost 30 pence per share and the dividend to be lifted by a penny to 17.1 pence per share. Those projections place the shares on a P/E of 11 and yield of 5.1%.

Of course, whether today's Christmas update, that share-price valuation and the general outlook for the supermarket sector make Sainsbury's a "buy" remains your decision.

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