Food retailer Ahold Delhaize (AD.AS) met forecasts with a 3% rise in fourth-quarter core earnings on Wednesday helped by its Food Lion and Hannaford U.S. grocery chains and strong online sales.
Ahold, which generates two-thirds of its sales in the United States, forecast 2020 margins "broadly in line" with last year and mid-single-digit growth in underlying earnings per share.
Overall underlying operating income rose to 765 million euros ($834 million) for the three months to Dec. 31 from 743 million. Sales rose 5.5% to 17.4 billion euros, helped by a strong dollar. The results were in line with the profit of 762 million euros on sales of 17.3 billion forecast by analysts, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.
"Total results ended with a strong fourth quarter and good closure of the year. We are, across the numbers, indeed better than consensus, so we are pretty happy with the results," Ahold Chief Executive Officer Frans Muller told Reuters. In the U.S. market, where it is concentrated in the eastern United States and also operates the Stop & Shop and Giant chains, comparable sales grew 2.3%.
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