Swedish food retailer ICA, which is 50% owned by Dutch retail giant Ahold, has said it plans to cut costs and that it expects 2003 earnings to be in line with last year's result.

The company said it had not ruled out the possible sale of part of its unprofitable bank operations, ICA Banken, to an external partner. The bank business, together with ICA's Lithuanian operations, is weighing on group results, the company said.

"We are reviewing costs within the whole concern, but our core operations are basically sound," chief executive Kenneth Bengtsson was quoted by Dow Jones International News as saying.

"We are sticking to our profit forecast that the result for 2003 is expected to be in line with the result in 2002," he added.

In 2002, the retailer reported an operating profit of SEK892m (US$111.6m), compared to SEK415m in 2001.

ICA said it planned to gradually lower costs over the coming years and that it expects to coordinate certain operations, resulting in some job cuts.