Portugal's Sonae Q4 profit falls as COVID-19 hurts shopping centre business

LISBON, March 18 (Reuters) - Portugal’s Sonae, which owns the country’s largest food retailer, said on Thursday its fourth-quarter net profit fell 3.4% from a year ago as the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on shopping centre business.

The group, which runs around 300 Continente hypermarkets and large supermarkets, Worten consumer electronics stores, Sportzone stores and other retail chains in the country said on Thursday its net profit fell to 75 million euros ($89.6 million) in the October-December period.

Consolidated sales rose 6.6% to 1.92 billion euros in the fourth quarter, with sales from the food retail unit Sonae MC increasing 8.5% to 1.38 billion euros, the company said.

The sales increase was offset by higher provisions due to COVID-19 and losses from its shopping malls, which were hurt by the curfew and partial weekend lockdowns imposed in Portugal in early November to curb the pandemic.

Worten’s sales rose 12.2% to 386 million euros, while sales from its shopping centre and real estate unit Sonae Sierra fell 46.7% to 21 million euros.

Underlying earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell 4.6% to 187 million euros in the period. Its EBITDA margin - a key measure of profitability - slipped to 9.8% from 10.9% a year earlier. ($1 = 0.8371 euros) (Written by Sergio Goncalves, Edited by Inti Landauro and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)