French retail giant Carrefour said Thursday that its 2012 net profit was three times bigger than the previous year owing mainly to asset sales, and the sharp improvement from poor results in 2011 pushed its shares higher on the Paris stock exchange.
Growing business in Latin America and improvements in France helped Carrefour's new boss Georges Plassat post a net profit of 1.23 billion euros ($1.6 billion) and propose a 2012 dividend of 0.58 euros per share.
Analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had expected a net profit of 810.9 million euros.
In 2011, Carrefour's net profit had fallen by 14.3 percent, but last year it earned more than one billion euros from asset sales as it withdrew from five countries, Colombia, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Carrefour is the world's second biggest retailer, after the US-based Wal-Mart.
Carrefour's operating profit, a closely-watched measure of its ongoing activities, slipped by 2.6 percent to 2.14 billion euros on sales that were 0.9 percent higher at 76.8 billion, a company statement said.
The group had forecast a slightly lower operating profit of around 2.07 billion euros.
Overall debt was reduced by 2.6 billion euros to 4.3 billion meanwhile, it added.
In morning trading, shares in the retailer were 2.76 percent higher at 21.97 euros, while the CAC 40 index on which they are listed was up by 0.57 percent overall.
Carrefour said that in the coming months, it would refocus operations "on countries where it holds leading positions and has a multi-format profile," in particular by strengthening activities in Argentina, Brazil and France.
The biggest growth in operating income last year came from Latin America, where it gained 14.2 percent to the equivalent of 608 million euros.
In China and Taiwan, sales grew by just 0.5 percent at constant exchange rates, while operating income dropped by 10.3 percent to 168 million euros.
"Continued productivity gains did not fully offset the increase in distribution costs linked to expansion and wage inflation in China," the statement said.
This year, Carrefour said it would focus in France, still its biggest market, by improving its product offer, renovating stores and pushing "multi-channel development" such as Internet-based operations.