Metro, the world\'s third-biggest retail distributor, posted on Tuesday a first-quarter net loss of three million euros ($4.4 million) while maintaining its earnings targets for the year as a whole. Metro had reported a net loss of 16 million euros in the same period a year earlier, and analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires had expected a a loss of almost as much this time around. Core earnings before interest, taxes and exceptional items increased by an annualised 6.6 percent to 145 million euros, a statement said, mainly as a result of cost cutting and improved productivity. Sales by the group slipped slightly to 15.5 billion euros from 16 billion in the first quarter of 2010 meanwhile, though losses in Germany were almost offset by gains in eastern Europe. Metro continues to focus on its international operations, and plans to open 110 new stores this year. It maintained its outlook for 2011 sales to increase by \"more than four percent\" and operating profit before exceptional items to gain \"around 10 percent.\"