Shares in Dutch retail giant Ahold jumped this morning (20 November) after the company booked an 11% rise in third-quarter operating profit.

Ahold posted operating profit of EUR262m (US$328.1m) up from EUR236m a year earlier. The news drove up the retailer's shares, which were up 6.3% to EUR8.50 at 11:34 CET.

The rise in Ahold's stock came despite a fall in third-quarter net income, which slipped 9.7% to EUR195m due to higher taxes and lower returns from the company's joint ventures.

Ahold saw income from its joint ventures tumble 43.4% to EUR30m as a weak performance in Norway, as well as lower gains from asset sales, hit the Scandinavian retailer ICA.

Nevertheless, CEO John Rishton said Ahold had "delivered a solid performance" during the third quarter. Net sales rose 3.9% to EUR5.8bn; at constant exchange rates, sales rose 7.6%.

Rishton pointed to rising identical-store sales at US chains Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover. Ahold has looked to breathe fresh life into its US businesses through its "Value Improvement Program", a scheme designed to lure customers through lower prices.

Identical-store sales at Stop & Shop climbed 4.6% during the quarter; at Giant-Landover, identical-store sales rose 0.7%.

"The price investments made in recent years have strengthened the competitive position of all our banners, but we remain vigilant and will respond to changes in consumer and competitor behaviour," Rishton said.

Identical-store sales at Ahold's Albert Heijn supermarkets in the Netherlands climbed 8.3%, while Ahold said identical-store sales from its Albert and Hypernova business in the Czech Republic and Slovakia rose 2.6%.

On a group-wide basis, Ahold saw retail operating margin rise from 4.8% to 4.9%. The company kept its guidance for underlying retail operating margin for the year at 4.8-5.3%.

On a year-to-date basis, Ahold posted group net sales of EUR19.1bn, up 0.4% on the year. At constant exchange rates, net sales were up 7.2%.

Operating income was up 1.2% to EUR833m. Net income stood at EUR794m, down EUR1.9bn in the year, which was boosted by a EUR2bn gain on disposals.