Woolworths has reported increased sales and earnings from its New Zealand supermarkets, despite what it calls "increasingly challenging" retail trading conditions.
The Australian-based retail giant says NZ supermarket sales rose 2.3 per cent to $NZ2.94 billion ($A2.40 billion) and earnings before interest and tax (ebit) rose 8.9 per cent to $NZ162.3 million ($A132.32 million) in the six months to December 31 compared with the previous corresponding period.
"This is a strong result given the New Zealand retail environment has been characterised by low growth and even lower inflation with retail trading conditions becoming increasingly challenging during the half," the company said on Thursday.
"Additionally, growth was restricted by the cycling of last year's Rugby World Cup finals."
Woolworths says it has increased market share in New Zealand.
It has opened four Countdown Supermarkets in the first half, taking the total to 165. One remains closed after the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake and there are plans to open four more Countdown stores before June 30.
Three franchise stores were also opened, taking their total to 57.
The company increased its gross margin slightly in the first half, citing more effective promotional activity, partnering with suppliers increased direct global sourcing among the reasons.
"We have continued to be competitive in the market with a number of cost savings."
Overall in Australia and New Zealand, the group reported a first half profit up 19 per cent to $A1.15 billion ($NZ1.42 billion).
Earnings from all supermarkets were six per cent higher at $A1.65 billion.
The company has also improved its forecast for its full year performance.
It expects net profit after tax from continuing operations to grow by between four and six per cent from the previous financial year.
Woolworths had previously forecast growth of between three and six per cent.
Woolworths' net profit from continuing operations, which excludes its now sold electronics business Dick Smith, was up 4.2 per cent in the six months to December at $A1.25 billion.