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Strong performances from Coles, Bunnings and Kmart have bumped up Wesfarmers’ net profit after tax for the year to $2.126 billion.
Wesfarmers is known as a diversified organisation as it generates income from a host of different businesses, but food and alcohol form the backbone of the group. This was made clear in the yearly results, which showed clear winners and losers among the group's businesses.
Coles was a star performer for Wesfarmers, with earnings before interest and tax rising more than 16% for the year to $1.3 billion.
Ian McLeod, managing director of Coles, pointed to the supermarket's move to lower prices, which he said was set to continue with Coles' "down, down" campaign.
He also noted Coles' category innovation, with more than 1,000 new brands introduced over the past year and Coles' clothing line, Mix clothes, now stocked in at least 67 Coles stores.
Coles has also driven profits through the revamp of its FlyBuys loyalty program, which has more than seven million cardholders.
However, McLeod said Coles Liquor had a disappointing performance in 2012 due to increased competition from "big box" alcohol stores.
Bunnings delivered earnings before tax of $841 million, which was ahead of estimates with an increase of almost 5%.
Tom Piotrowski, market analyst at CommSec, said Bunnings' strong performance defied the tough conditions in the building and renovation sectors and was ahead of estimates.
"Bunnings is an area the market has been treating with some caution. We hear a lot about light demand for credit in all forms and the fact that the building and renovation market is still experiencing degrees of headwinds," he said.
The home improvements chain opened 16 new stores and reported "strong investment" in its property pipeline and existing stores.
Discount department store Kmart continued to perform well ahead of expectations, with earnings before tax of $266 million.
Guy Russo, managing director of Kmart, said in his results presentation that Kmart was continuing to lead on price and value and was continuing to source at lowest cost.
Target did not fare as well as other businesses in the Wesfarmers group, with earnings before interest and tax of $244 million.
"Target and its numbers are quite conspicuous, but this is an area Wesfarmers expects benefits from over the coming years," said Piotrowski.
"In fact, the group is only in the early part of a four-year turnaround where Wesfarmers is trying to reposition the Target brand, as they believe there is a gap in the market for a mid-tier department store."
Part of the reason for Target's underperformance was $40 million provisioning taken for streamlining supply chain issues, an amount flagged by Dene Rogers, Target's managing director, in his results presentation.
Rogers said Target was refocusing on quality, style and experience, rather than just price.
Wesfarmers' insurance division took a $108 million hit for provisioning as a result of the Christchurch earthquake.
"When you take that out of the equation, the insurance business actually performed quite well and this is an area that is expected to continue to improve," Piotrowski said.
Rob Scott, the managing director of Wesfarmers' insurance division, said the Christchurch earthquake was the largest-ever insured loss in the southern hemisphere.
He hopes to get the insurance division back on track through strong momentum from premium rate increases.
This article first appeared at SmartCompany.