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SYDNEY, Feb 15 AAP

February 15 2013, 3:57PM

Shopping centre group Charter Hall Retail REIT is bargaining on the continued sales growth of supermarket giants Coles and Woolworth as it focuses on its Australian business.

The company announced a first half net profit of $15.8 million for the six months to December 31, a stark contrast to the $15.7 million loss made in the previous corresponding period.

However, the 2011/12 first half result was restated as its New Zealand, United States and Poland properties, which it sold during the period have now been reclassified as discontinued operations.

Charter Hall fund manager Scott Dundas said the company would continue with its strategy to grow its portfolio of Australian shopping centres with a focus on supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths.

The company said it has a 98.5 per cent occupancy rate at its 75 Australian shopping centres.

Charter Hall had recently acquired shopping centres in Tamworth, Dubbo and Lake Macquarie.

Coles and Woolworths anchor most of Charter Hall's shopping centres with the supermarket chains' owners accounting for 53 per cent of the company's annual base rent in Australia.

"Coles and Woolworths food and liquor sales growth has improved over the last half with Coles now reporting 3.9 per cent growth and Woolworths 2.5 per cent growth across their books across the country," head of asset management John Courtney said.

Mr Dundas said the group continued to be on the lookout for supermarket anchored shopping centres and expected to lift its full year earnings.

"Barring unforeseen events, forecast FY13 operating earnings are expected to be in the range of 29.5 to 30.0 cents per unit, with distributions expected to reflect a payout ratio of between 85 per cent and 95 per cent of operating earnings," he said.

Charter Hall's operating earnings for the 2011/12 financial year were $86.3 million, or 28.81 cents per unit.

The group maintained its interim distribution at 13.3 cents per security.

Charter Hall securities were one cent, or 0.26 per cent, higher at $3.87 at 1557 AEDT.