Australian market leader plans to develop on soaring sales
Australian retail and leisure giant Woolworths' sales soared 22 per cent in first-half trading to January 1.

Cost cutting and recent acquisitions helped the retailer deliver a rise in profits to Aus$543.1 million (£229.8 million). Sales for the period grew 18 per cent to Aus$19.1 billion (£8.08 billion).

Outgoing chief executive Roger Corbett predicted 15 per cent to 20 per cent sales growth for the year, including at the recently-acquired Taverner Hotel Group and Foodland Associated.

However, Corbett warned that the discretionary and general merchandise sectors would remain 'very constrained' until at least the end of the financial year, amid continued consumer concerns over petrol prices and interest rates.

Corbett also indicated that Woolworths wants to build on its recent move into New Zealand through expansion of its off-licence and discount variety stores. 'I think the opportunity for liquor is a little bit more imminent than the opportunity for general merchandise,' Corbett said.

Corbett steps down in September and Woolworths said it expects to announce his successor in May.