Ahold said "contracting" US food market hit sales

Ahold said "contracting" US food market hit sales

A fall in fourth-quarter sales in the US hit shares in Giant Food and Stop & Shop owner Ahold in early trade today (16 January).

The Netherlands-based retailer saw sales in the US drop 2.1% in the last three months of 2013. Identical-store sales were also down 2.1%. 

The retailer cited a "contracting food market" and the impact of lapping the sales boost it got from Hurricane Sandy in the autumn of 2012.

Ahold makes around 60% of its sales in the US and the fall in Stateside revenues meant group net sales for the quarter were down 4.2% at EUR7.5bn (US$10.21bn). At constant exchange rates, sales fell 1.1%.

Sanford Bernstein analyst Bruno Monteyne said the consensus forecast among analysts was for sales on that metric to rise 0.4%.

In the Netherlands, sales inched up 0.7% in the fourth quarter. However, identical-store sales dropped 1%. Ahold said market conditions "remained challenging". Top-line growth came from its online businesses. At its Albert Heijn stores, transactions were "broadly stable" but basket size "came under pressure", it said.

For the year as a whole, Ahold reported consolidated net sales of EUR32.6bn, up 2%. At current exchange rates, sales dipped 0.2%. Identical-store sales in the US grew 0.2% and increased 0.6% in the Netherlands.

Shares in Ahold were down 3.42% at EUR12.71 at 12:20 CET today.

Click here for the full statement from Ahold.