Dutch retailer Laurus NV has reported net losses for the 2005 financial year of EUR66m, reduced from last year’s loss of EUR129m but above analyst predictions of EUR57m.

“For Laurus, 2005, like 2004, was unfortunately a loss-making year, despite our
managing to halt the downward trend in sales at all our store formats in the closing
quarter,” noted chairman of the group management board Harry Bruijniks.

Consolidated net sales for the year were EUR3.2bn, down from EUR3.5bn in 2004. Consumer sales in 2005 amounted to EUR 3.7bn, compared with EUR4.1bn the year before.

Combined like-for-like sales at the Edah, Konmar Superstores and Super de Boer outlets were down on average from 2004 levels by 6.8%. However, throughout the year the company managed to slow this decline: in the first half, like-for-like sales declined by 8.8% while the second half saw a decrease of 5% – but this decline was slowed to 2.2% in the last quarter. The improvement, seen at all three formats, was partially the result of successful promotional campaigns, Laurus said.

“Halting the slide in like-for-like consumer sales marks a turnaround in the downward trend of recent years. The improvement was won, however, at the expense of margins, which continued to be pressurised in 2005,” the company said in a statement.

The margin represented by gross operating income was down from 18.8% in 2004 to 18.5% in 2005. Consolidated operating profit before financing costs in 2005 was minus-EUR25m, compared with EUR125m negative in 2004. In 2005, Laurus suffered a net loss of EUR66m compared with a loss of EUR129m in 2004.

Laurus has been the principle victim of a supermarket price war that has been raging in the Netherlands. The company said that the poor results were the consequence of products being sold below-cost and declining sales.

Laurus had previously announced the sale of the Edah and Konmar chains. “‘At the end of 2006, Laurus will be a different company from what it was at the end
of 2005. Focusing 100% on one format,” said Bruijniks. “A successful sale will reduce the debt burden and minimise the legacy of the past to be borne by Super de Boer while at the same time affording new prospects of a better future for those parts of the business finding new owners.”

Frits Kremer, Laris spokesperson, told just-food that the company believed the Super de Boer format to be best placed to move on in the market. “It is a top-end supermarket and we believe that there is still room in the market for growth in this area,” he observed.