Jeronimo Martins has reported that group profit increased slightly during the first quarter of 2009, up 2 per cent to €32.5m despite negative impacts from currency and the fact that Easter fell in the second quarter this year.

Net sales at the Portuguese retailer increased 6.7 per cent through the period, up to €1.6bn from €1.5bn in 2008, with group earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) climbing 9.6 per cent.

The biggest single contributor to the company's comparable sales growth was Biedronka, with a sales increase of 7.7 per cent, while Recheio achieved small growth of 1.8 per cent.

Debt reached €936.7m in the first quarter, reflecting 'normal business seasonality', according to the group.

'The operating performance posted in Q1 2009 reflected the scale benefits in sourcing achieved thanks to the growth strategy implemented by the group in the last few years,' Jeronimo Martins said in a statement. 'As the contribution of the of the recently opened stores is still below the standard of mature stores, the visibility of scale benefits into earnings should progressively increase.

'Jeronimo Martins continues to face 2009 with prudence despite thesales growth reflecting the strength of its business models,particularly in the distribution area, through Pingo Doce supermarkets,Recheio and Biedronka,' the group added.