Dutch retailer Ahold has reported a sharp rise in fourth-quarter net income as it continues to recover from a massive financial scandal two years ago.

The company reported net income of €96m (US$124.0m) for the 13-week fourth quarter of 2004 compared to €12m for the 12-week fourth quarter of 2003. Operating income was €207m compared to €61m a year earlier. The company reduced its net debt to €6.3bn from €7.8bn a year earlier.

Net sales slid 3.0% to €12.4bn, but net sales growth excluding currency impact and the impact of divestments was 9.0%.

For the full year the company reported a net loss of €443m, compared to a net loss of €1m in 2003, hit by exceptional items of €582m.

The company said its key priorities for 2005 include continuing with its Road to Recovery strategy, including completion of its divestment programme.

“Ahold’s Road to Recovery strategy is bearing fruit. During 2004 and especially in Q4 2004, we have made good progress. As we anticipated, this progress did not result in performance improvement in 2004, but we will in due course reap the benefits of our efforts,” the company said.