Shares in Belgium-based retailer Delhaize dipped today (14 January) after the company posted slowing fourth-quarter sales growth as food prices in the US fell.

Delhaize, which runs the Food Lion and Hannaford chains in the US, booked a 2.8% fall in fourth-quarter comparable-store sales across the Atlantic. Over the year, US comparable-store sales were down 0.4%.

The company said that in a "highly deflationary US environment" it had seen "better volume trends" in the fourth quarter compared to last year.

Fourth-quarter comparable-store sales were up 2.6% in Belgium as Delhaize continued to benefit from its investment in price. The retailer said it gained market share "every week" in Belgium throughout 2009. Domestic annual comparable-store sales rose 2.7%.

Delhaize's global revenues in the fourth quarter of 2009 rose 1.5% on a constant-currency basis. On a reported basis, turnover was down 3.3% due to the weak US dollar.

Over 2009, however, the dollar strengthened against the euro. Group revenues rose 1.2% to EUR19.9bn at identical exchange rates but was up 4.8% at actual exchange rates.

President and CEO Pierre-Olivier Beckers said: "During the fourth quarter of 2009, we continued to see volume trend improvements compared with last year in all our operations due to our price investments and strong marketing campaigns, while cycling the highest inflation of the previous year."

Beckers said he expects Delhaize's operating profit to grow by 1 to 4% in 2009 at identical exchange rates, excluding the charges related to a restructuring programme in the US.

Shares in Delhaize were down 2.1% at EUR52.44 at 16:03 CET this afternoon.