Belgian retail giant Delhaize has reported a sharp rise in second-quarter earnings, boosted by strong sales both in Belgium and the US.

The company reported net earnings of €81.9m (US$98.8m) for the second quarter of 2004, compared to €9.3m a year earlier. Prior year net earnings were negatively impacted by an exceptional charge of €51.8m after tax related to an accounting change.

Total second-quarter sales increased by 0.4% to €4.6bn and were impacted by the weakening of the US dollar against the euro. Sales growth at identical exchange rates was 4.9%. Comparable store sales growth was 1.4% in the US and 3.8% in Belgium.

Delhaize said its US sales rose 5.4% to US$4.0bn, due to new stores and higher comparable store sales. Sales at its Belgian operations rose 5.9% to €965.3m.

Sales at Delhaize's Southern and Central European operations rose 0.4% to €304.5m. Sales at its Asian operations decreased to €37.5m from €53.8m a year earlier, partly due to the depreciation of Asian currencies against the euro.

"We are very pleased with our strong second quarter results," said president and CEO Pierre-Olivier Beckers. "Our successful commercial strategies resulted in continued strong sales momentum in the US and Belgium. The operating margin in the US and Belgium increased significantly thanks to the good sales and continued cost discipline. As a result, we are confident that we will achieve our goals for the year."

Delhaize also announced plans to divest its Thai subsidiary, Food Lion Thailand. To read more, click here.