WOOLWORTHS ANNOUNCES SALES 'MILESTONE'

SYDNEY (FNS) -- Woolworths here said strong growth in food and general merchandise sales have helped the company achieve a "significant milestone" in its history, with sales exceeding $11.8 billion (U.S.) for the 52 weeks ended in June.Roger Corbett, Woolworths chief executive officer, said sales growth for the year was a "healthy" 8.4% for the group, with "very pleasing" fourth quarter results.He

SYDNEY (FNS) -- Woolworths here said strong growth in food and general merchandise sales have helped the company achieve a "significant milestone" in its history, with sales exceeding $11.8 billion (U.S.) for the 52 weeks ended in June.

Roger Corbett, Woolworths chief executive officer, said sales growth for the year was a "healthy" 8.4% for the group, with "very pleasing" fourth quarter results.

He noted supermarket sales for the year rose 8.3% to $9.8 billion with comparable store sales up 4.8%.

The chain, which opened 26 supermarkets during the year, also improved its share of the food market.

Corbett noted that this year, Easter fell in the fourth quarter and has impacted third and fourth quarter comparisons by around 1 to 1.25 %.

He said there appeared to be no significant "distortions in sales trends in the fourth quarter" ahead of the new goods and services tax.

Naum Onikul, Woolworths chief general manager, supermarket operations, said, "Overall, the sales for the year were in line with expectations, although there was some disparity state by state. Both New South Wales and South Australia experienced strong growth in the second half."