Dutch retailer Ahold has said consolidated net sales amounted to €15.4bn (US$18.2bn) for the first quarter to 18 April, a decline of 11.3% from the same period last year.

Ahold said net sales were significantly impacted by lower currency exchange rates, in particular that of the US dollar. Net sales excluding currency impact decreased by 1.4%. Net sales were also impacted by divestments. Net sales growth excluding currency impact and impact of divestments was approximately 1.3% in the first quarter.

In the US, retail net sales decreased in US dollar terms by 1.2% to US$8.2bn. The negative impact of the divestment of Golden Gallon in 2003 on net sales growth was approximately 1.5%. Identical sales declined by 1.6% and comparable sales declined by 1.0%, in US dollars. Ahold said its retail operations in the US have seen "ongoing challenging market circumstances", but added that both Stop & Shop and Giant-Carlisle had shown a resilient performance.

In Europe, net sales declined by 0.9% to €3.7bn. Net sales growth excluding currency impact amounted to 0.5%. Identical sales growth at Albert Heijn was 0.1%; the increase in transactions was largely offset by a lower average basket size. Net sales growth in Central Europe was largely offset by lower currency exchange rates. Net sales in Spain decreased as a consequence of intensified competition plus a lower store count.

Net sales at US Foodservice increased by 4.6% to US$5.5bn, mainly driven by inflation.

In South America, net sales amounted to €336m, down 42.4% from last year, mainly due to the divestment of Bompreço in Brazil in the course of the first quarter of 2004 and Santa Isabel in the second half of 2003.

In Asia, net sales declined by 53.2% to €51m. Ahold said this decline was due to the divestment of its operations in Malaysia and Indonesia in the course of the third quarter of 2003 and the divestment of its operations in Thailand during the first quarter of 2004.

Ahold said net sales at its unconsolidated joint ventures increased by 1.4% to €2.6bn in the first quarter. In Central America net sales were significantly impacted by lower currency exchange rates. Sales growth excluding currency impact in Central America was 19.9% in the first quarter. Both ICA and Jerónimo Martins showed an increase in sales.