Germany's Metro profits hit by one-off charges

German retail giant Metro said Wednesday profits were hit by one-off restructuring charges and portfolio changes last year, but it is pencilling in "moderate" sales growth this year.

Metro said in a statement that its bottom-line net profit tumbled to 3.0 million euros ($3.7 million) in 2012, down from 631 million euros a year earlier.

"High one-off expenses ... have impacted earnings in 2012," said chief executive Olaf Koch.

"We have implemented fundamental changes during the past year. This came at a price and was also painful in many ways -- but we are clearly changing for the better. In 2012, we have created first conditions for long-term growth," Koch said.

Underlying profit, as measured by earnings before interest, tax and special items (EBIT), declined by 16.7 percent to 1.976 billion euros in 2012 on a 1.2-percent increase in revenues to 66.7 billion euros.

Looking ahead to the current business year -- which will be shortened to just nine months as Metro switches from a calendar year to a fiscal year running from October to September -- the retailer said it expected to generate "moderate growth in sales in spite of the continuing difficult business conditions."

In the year following that, from October 2013 to September 2014, "Metro expects to see this moderate growth in sales continue compared with the respective period for the previous year," it said.

Earnings in the short financial year 2013 would be "impacted by the uncertain economic situation," Metro cautioned, saying it was expecting EBIT before special items to "increase compared to the level achieved in the corresponding period of the previous year of 704 million euros.

"This projection is based on the assumption of higher income from the sale of real estate assets compared to the year-earlier period," Metro added.