Shares in the Dutch supermarket operator Laurus NV have declined sharply following the news that the group posted a first-half net loss. Delivering its H1 results, the group warned that it is likely that the company will breach a bank loan requirement in the second half of 2006.

Laurus reported a first half loss of EUR37m (US$47.5m) compared with a net loss of EUR46m for the comparable period of last year. Net sales declined to EUR1.42bn from EUR1.46bn posted a year earlier.

The troubled retailer said that it has commenced talks with its banks amid fears that its Super de Boer chain will not achieve positive EBITDA in the fourth quarter of the full year - one of the conditions for meeting its loan agreements.

"The outcome of these negotiations is uncertain, but crucial from the point of view of continuity, since the existing financing ends on 30 January 2007," the company warned.

Laurus said that the sale of its underperforming Edah and Konmar chains would allow it to focus on its Super de Boer format.

"Laurus expects shareholders' equity to show a decline in the second half of 2006, and the year is unlikely to be closed with a positive net result, partly because of the costs of restructuring," it said.

Laurus stock had opened at EUR2.40, declining to EUR2.27 at time of press.