Japan's top retailer, Seven & I Holdings <3382.T>, posted a 23 percent rise in operating profit for the first nine months of the business year as customer visits to its convenience stores rose and reconstruction efforts boosted sales at its supermarkets in quake-hit areas.
Seven & I, which ranks ahead of Aeon Co <8267.T>, reported on Friday an operating profit of 216.22 billion yen ($2.8 billion) for March-November, in part because convenience store visits by older customers and women stayed high after rising in the aftermath of the March 11 disasters.
For its business year to February 2012, the owner of 7-Eleven, the world's largest convenience store chain, maintained an operating-profit outlook of 286 billion yen, in line with the average estimate of 290 billion yen in a poll of 19 analysts by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Seven & I's forecast is the highest since it posted a 286.8 billion yen profit in its 2006 business year, which was a record since its establishment as a holding company.
Several Japanese general retailers are poised to take in record profits in their current year -- for most the year ending next March 31 -- amid a post-quake boost in demand, increased sales of higher-margin prepared meals, and private-label products as well as operating efficiency improvements.
Shares of Seven & I fell about 1 percent in 2011, versus a 17 percent tumble in the benchmark Nikkei average <.N225>.
($1 = 77.22 yen)
(Reporting by James Topham; Editing by Matt Driskill and Michael Watson)