Dutch supermarket retailer and wholesaler Laurus has reported an 8.5% fall in net turnover at its core Dutch activities.

The company said net turnover was €3.81bn (US$4.85bn) in 2003, compared to €4.16bn in 2002.

Laurus, the Netherlands' second-largest food retailer in terms of sales after Ahold, pointed to two factors that contributed to the fall in sales.

"The first was the difficult market and the price war which engulfed the Dutch supermarkets in the closing months of the year, involving fairly heavy discounting by the Laurus formats," the company was quoted by Reuters as saying. 

"The second factor concerns the sale of stores to Sperwer and other purchasers. The number of outlets fell by 43, from 771 to 728." 

Despite the lower sales, Laurus backed its forecast for a modest net profit for 2003, Reuters reported.