French giant Carrefour has shocked investors by warning profits will be at the lower end of expectations for the coming year. Chairman Daniel Bernard said he expected an earnings growth of 20% this year at the company's annual shareholders meeting this week ­ but analysts were predicting growth of 35%. The supermarket group, formed by the merger of Promodès and Carrefour last summer, is the second biggest retailer in the world, after US company Wal-Mart. Even though the company is growing strongly, shares have been knocked, losing 32% of their value since a high of euros 193.2 in November last year. The price had fallen to euros 132 last week. Earnings were hit after Bernard also announced that almost £1bn would be pumped into internet development over the next three years. Carrefour will float a dedicated internet unit on the stock exchange. No details were given on the breakdown of the spend on e-business, but last month Carrefour said it would launch an internet service provider and wanted to spend more on its home shopping service, currently on trial in various regions of France before being rolled out nationally (The Grocer, March 4, p 14). Bernard said Carrefour would "expand heavily" outside France, building 10 hypermarkets and 12 supermarkets in Brazil, although the country's economy remained under pressure. Head of South American operations Philippe Jarry said the situation would also remain difficult in Argentina. In Asia, the company plans to open 20 new stores ­ eight in China, four in South Korea, four in Thailand and two in Indonesia. {{NEWS }}