Online sales help supermarket operator Ahold exceed expectations

The Ahold Delhaize logo is seen at the company’s headquarters in Zaandam, the Netherlands, August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

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AMSTERDAM, May 12 (Reuters) – Ahold Delhaize (AD.AS), a major operator of supermarket chains in the United States and Europe, on Wednesday reported better-than-expected first-quarter sales on the back of a strong performance in line.

The operator of chains Food Lion, Giant and Hannaford, among others, said it was raising its 2021 online sales outlook based on performance after its 4.6% first-quarter operating margin topped a market forecast of 4.3%.

“As COVID-19 continues to create significant uncertainty for the remainder of 2021, strong first quarter results provide management with the confidence to raise the underlying EPS (earnings per share) growth outlook for the company. ‘year,’ the company said.

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Net sales increased 5.8% at constant exchange rates to €18.3 billion ($22.2 billion), with online sales jumping 103%. The forecasts established by the company counted on a turnover of the group of 17.4 billion euros.

Underlying operating profit fell 12% to 849 million euros, but was better than a company compiled forecast of 740 million euros.

The underlying EPS growth forecast was raised to a “low to mid-percentage”, up from the “mid to high single-digit” growth previously forecast.

Ahold’s chief financial officer, Natalie Knight, cited operating margin and U.S. online sales growth of 188% to justify the more optimistic outlook, which was based on 2019 numbers to compensate for anomalies related to the pandemic.

It maintained an underlying operating margin outlook for 2021 “of at least 4%”, with projected cost savings of more than 750 million euros.

Online sales are expected to continue to grow strongly in Europe and the United States this year, Knight said, albeit at slightly lower levels than in 2020.

($1 = 0.8247 euros)

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Reporting by Anthony Deutsch Editing by David Goodman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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David A. Albanese