Aholds Q4 profitability was better than analysts had expected

Ahold's Q4 profitability was better than analysts had expected

Shares in Ahold climbed today (27 February) despite a drop in fourth-quarter net income after the Dutch retail giant's operating profit and margins came in above analyst forecasts.

Ahold reported its fourth-quarter and 2013 sales last month so the market was eyeing the Albert Heijn owner's profitability.

Net income was down 10.4% at EUR215m (US$293.6m) on the back of lower income from discontinued operations. Ahold said the lower profits was "primarily" due to its former Scandinavian venture ICA.

Underlying operating income was EUR320m, down 9.9%, amid higher pension costs and a lower US dollar. Underlying operating margin was 4.3% compared to 4.6% a year earlier.

However, the results pleased analysts. Sanford Bernstein's Bruno Monteyne said Ahold's operating profitability was "a substantial beat on consensus estimates"

"We were encouraged by the guidance on margin ahead of consensus," Monteyne said.

For 2013, net income stood at EUR2.54bn, helped by proceeds from the sale of Ahold's stake in ICA.

Operating income was down 7.3% at EUR1.24bn. Underlying operating income was 2.3% lower at EUR1.38bn.

Shares in Ahold were up 4.44% at EUR13.88 at 13:40 CET.

Click here for the full results statement from Ahold.