Sainsbury's sales and market share rise

J Sainsbury, Britain's third-biggest supermarket group, beat forecasts for fourth quarter sales growth as it won market share from rivals.

"We continue to outperform the market and gain market share," said chief executive Justin King.

He said although the economic climate was likely to remain challenging Britain's roster of summer events, including celebrations to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics and Paralympics, were opportunities for growth.

Sainsbury's which lags Wal-Mart's Asda and British market leader Tesco by annual revenue, said sales at stores open more than a year rose 2.6 per cent, excluding fuel but including VAT sales tax, in the 10 weeks to 17 March.

That beat analysts' average forecast of 2.1 per cent, according to a company poll, and was slightly better than its performance in the previous quarter.

The outcome reflected the success of Sainsbury's "Brand Match" pricing promotion and growth in convenience store sales, non-food items and online.

Sainsbury's peers are yet to report on periods which significantly overlap. However, market share data has shown the firm at or near the front of the sector in recent months, while Tesco has lost ground.

Retailers across Europe are mostly struggling as disposable incomes are squeezed by rising prices, muted wage growth and government austerity measures, and as shoppers worry about the impact of the euro zone debt crisis.

Prior to Wednesday's update analysts' consensus for Sainsbury's 2011-12 underlying pretax profit was £700m, up from £665m in 2010-11.