Carrefour said annual group sales fell 1.1% due to the effects of exchange rates as well as difficult trading conditions at its South American businesses.

Group turnover excluding VAT dropped to 68.8bn euros from 69.5bn euros last year with sales down 36.2% in the Americas. In its home market sales grew 2.2% and elsewhere in Europe rose 6.6%.

Pre-tax profit rose 14.6% to 2.5bn euros from 2.2bn euros in 2001.

Looking ahead the French retailer said its strategy in the coming years would focus on organic growth and the development of all its formats, notable with the reinforcement of its European base. “The objective is to come back over the medium term and on constant exchange rates to a sales growth of 7%.”

Meanwhile, Carrefour also expressed an interest in buying parts of Dutch retailer Ahold.

Chief executive Daniel Bernard said: “We are not candidates to acquire Ahold, but if portions of the company were up for sale we would look at them with our investment criteria in mind.”