First quarter operating profits at German grocer Metro have halved due to currency devaluations.

But the world’s fourth-largest retailer said operating profits for April beat last year’s results.

Pre-tax profits in the first quarter, adjusted for restructuring expenses, plummeted 49.3 per cent to €84m. Sales slid 2.5 per cent to €15.2bn, which was in line with estimates.

Metro said sales were affected by the shift of the Easter business into the second quarter, as well as negative currency effects in Eastern Europe and the downward trend in inflation, especially in the food business.

Metro Group chief executive Dr. Eckhard Cordes said:  “We have seen a fair first quarter without surprises. Against the backdrop of the continued and further intensifying economic crisis the only surprise is that there is no surprise.”

Metro said sales at Easter came in at a “gratifying level”, with sales and earnings in April showing a “noticeable upward trend”.

The retailer said this “demonstrates that the current crisis offers opportunities for a healthy and financially strong company like Metro Group to extend its market position”.

Cordes said: “We are determined to seize these opportunities.”