Belgian retailer Delhaize Group revealed this morning (8 May) its CEO Pierre-Olivier Beckers is to step down as it recorded a “strong” first-quarter, moving to profit and booking sales gains.

Delhaize’s share price rose nearly 3% to EUR49.58 (US$65.11) on both announcements today. The retailer said Beckers will retire at the end of the year after 15 years at the helm but will continue to serve as a company director.

Beckers joined Delhaize in 1983. He has served as a director since 1995 and was appointed president and CEO in January 1999. He will stay in his post until a new CEO is appointed, which Delhaize expects will be by the end of 2013.

The news came as the firm booked an increase in first-quarter earnings. In the three months to the end of March, net profit amounted to EUR60m, compared with a loss of EUR2m last year.

Operating profit increased to EUR115m from EUR32m due to lower store closures and related charges compared to last year.

Revenues in the quarter edged up 0.9% to EUR8.74bn, while organic revenue growth was 3.8%.

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Beckers said: “We had a strong first quarter driven by positive revenue growth and profitability at Delhaize America and Delhaize Belgium, partly supported by favourable weather conditions.”

For the full-year, the retailer said it expects to record operating profit of around EUR775m compared to EUR804m last year due to its investment in strategic initiatives and given the “exceptional nature” of the first quarter.

Click here to view both announcements in full.

Click here for further comments from Beckers on his departure and click here for a round-up of what analysts think of the news.