J Sainsbury Rallies as Sales Jump 7.1%


LONDON -- The shares of J Sainsbury have rallied 1.5% to 371 pence as of 8 a.m. EDT after the supermarket issued a fourth-quarter update. The FTSE 100 member said its total sales advanced 7.1% during the 10 weeks to March 16, with like-for-like sales up 4.2%. Excluding fuel, total sales improved 6.3% and like-for-like sales increased 3.6%.

Chief executive Justin King, said: "We have delivered strong sales in the fourth quarter, increasing market share and outperforming in what remains a tough retail environment. Over the quarter, we grew customer transactions to 22.9 million per week, serving more customers than ever."

King also claimed the supermarket's convenience store operation had grown 18% year on year on the back of new outlets and strong like-for-like sales. He also revealed that the group's online division had seen its sales improve by nearly 20% during the last 12 months, with 190,000 customers now receiving deliveries every week.

Another highlight was general merchandise and clothing, sales of which advanced at nearly three times the rate of the company's food sales. Sainsbury's confirmed that February saw annual sales of its general merchandise range top 1 billion pounds for the first time.

Prior to today, City experts reckoned the supermarket's current-year earnings could top 29 pence per share and that its 12-month dividend may be nearly 17 pence per share. Such projections suggest the shares trade at less than 13 times possible profits and offer a potential income of 4.5%. Of course, whether today's statement and the share price valuation now combine to make Sainsbury a buy remains your decision.

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