Carrefour issues profit warning

Carrefou issued its fourth profit warning in as many months on Thursday, providing further evidence that cash-strapped shoppers are becoming even more cautious against an uncertain economic backdrop.

The French group, battling to drive through a turnaround plan to address years of underperformance in its main western European markets, said it expected 2011 operating profit to fall by up to 20 percent, compared with about 15 per cent previously.

The world's second-biggest retailer by sales after US group Wal-Mart made the prediction after it eked out a 0.3 per cent gain in third-quarter sales to 22.8 billion euros (19.4 billion pounds) as robust growth in emerging markets barely offset weak sales in France and western Europe.

Quarterly sales were broadly in line with a forecast of 22.74 billion euros in a Reuters poll of 12 analysts.

"An increasingly uncertain environment is not a good recipe for having a high level of confidence in the numbers for 2012," said RBS analyst Justin Scarborough.

European retailers are struggling in their home markets as shoppers are hit by higher prices, subdued wage growth and government austerity measures.

On Wednesday, smaller French retailer Casino reported slower growth in France but offset that with strong growth in emerging markets.