Pingo Doce and Recheio both increased their market share, with excellent performance in an economy with a low inflation rate, which is always a challenge for a business with very reduced margins, requiring continuous focus on its ability to be competitive and to offer innovative solutions to consumers.
For Pingo Doce, which posted 2.5% growth in LFL sales, it was a historic year in terms of EBITDA, which reached 200 million euros, 6.4% more than in the previous year and with the respective margin standing at 5.1%. Total sales increased 2.9% to 3.9 billion euros, reflecting the contribution of the nine stores opened in the year (four in the Pingo Doce & Go convenience format), which absorbed a portion of the 143 million euros invested by the Company in 2019.
Recheio exceeded the billion-euro barrier in total sales for the first time in 2019 (+2.7% compared to 2018), with a LFL growth of 3.2%. Part of the 25 million euros invested in the year was allocated to comprehensive refurbishment of the Aveiro store. The Company posted an EBITDA of 55 million euros, 4.6% more than in 2018, increasing the respective margin to 5.5%.
In Colombia, in a highly competitive market, Ara confirmed reversal of the downward trend in EBITDA losses, which totalled 62 million euros in the year, corresponding to a reduction, in euros, of 15% compared to 2018. This reduction in losses was achieved in spite of the investment of 98 million euros in 85 new stores and two Distribution Centres, and a reinforced focus on pricing to accelerate LFL growth, which, in 2019, stood at 17.6%. Total sales grew 37.9% in local currency, to which implementation of the new organisational model contributed very positively, giving the regions greater autonomy, flexibility and competitiveness.
The Group also continued to invest in Agribusiness, which increased production in the three business areas: dairy, aquaculture and Angus beef. With regard to the latter, I would like to highlight the animal welfare certifications obtained by our farms and the fact that we have implemented the highest standards for animal feed and management of animal health in all stages of their life cycles.
The results in the countries where we operate were achieved in an extremely competitive environment, in which we pushed ourselves to be better every day, focusing especially on sustainability issues insofar as we are well aware that the significant social and environmental challenges we face are a race against time.
Already in 2020, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the global risk matrix was literally dominated by environmental risks, the top 5 risks in terms of likelihood and three in the terms of impact (natural disasters, biodiversity loss and climate action failure). Disclosure of the latest edition of the Global Risks Report coincided with publication of scientific data that indicates that the past decade was the hottest ever recorded on Earth.
This must drive us to act decisively and committedly. And it is what our Companies have been doing, as demonstrated by Jerónimo Martins being included in more than 60 international sustainability indexes, which recognise the companies with the best sustainability practices.
As I write this, we have just been told that we have entered the Top 50 of the 2020 Global Powers of Retailing ranking for the first time, a study conducted by international consulting firm Deloitte which lists the 250 largest retailers in the world. We rank 33rd among the food retailers and, if we consider only Europe, we come in 16th.
We have also received from the Carbon Disclosure Project an assessment that lists us as the only food retailer in the world to achieve a Leadership (A-) score in management of the four commodities associated with deforestation risk (palm oil, soy, wood and paper, and beef). This demonstrates that we take our commitment to reach “Zero Net Deforestation” by 2020, a goal set by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), seriously. With regard to climate change, less than one-third of the global retailers achieved the same level we did: A-.