Dutch retail combine Royal Ahold posted second-quarter operating profits of EUR376m (US$480m), up 55% from EUR242m last year and ahead of analysts' forecasts, which had been for profits in the region of EUR294m to EUR362m.
 
Pre-tax income doubled to EUR298m, while net profit rose from EUR131m to EUR225m, also ahead of market forecasts. Net sales were more or less on a par with the corresponding period last year at EUR10.5bn. However, at constant exchange rates net sales were up by 2.2%.

The profit growth was spearheaded by a strong performance from the group's Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn and its US operations, the company said.

"The second quarter showed an encouraging improvement of the profitability of the business despite competitive trading conditions and higher energy costs," said Ahold president CEO Anders Moberg. "Strong performances at Albert Heijn, Giant-Carlisle, Giant-Landover and USF Broadline contributed to substantial increases in operating income and margins. However, consumer confidence in the US is being affected by less favourable business conditions, and competitive activity continues to intensify in some markets."

For the first half, net sales rose by 5% to EUR24.6bn, while operating profits increased by 43% to EUR836m.  Ahold has reaffirmed its target for a full-year retail operating margin of 4.0% to 4.5%.