Swedish retailer ICA, in which Ahold owns a 60% stake, has reported an increase in underlying profits in 2011 on the back of a rebound from its Rimi Baltic unit.

ICA today (15 February) posted a 5.6% increase in operating income, excluding capital gains and impairments, to SEK3.1bn (US$462.2m).

The retailer said the result was its "highest profit until now". It added: "The reasons were a strong recovery by Rimi Baltic, a very successful year for ICA Bank and ICA Real Estate and stable development by ICA Sweden. ICA Norway remained a major challenge, but a lower loss in the fourth quarter was a cautious sign of a recovery."

On a reported basis, ICA's operating income was down 14.3% at SEK2.51bn.

ICA's Rimi Baltic business moved back into profit after losses of SEK13m last year. It run up an impairment charge of SEK21m in Estonia but one-off costs were lower than a year ago. ICA said higher gross margins and cost control drove the improved financial performance.

In Sweden, profits fell 4.8% despite an increase in sales due to logistics costs.

ICA's losses more than doubled in Norway during 2011 due to an impairment charge of SEK592m. However, the retailer said the unit's losses in the fourth quarter had narrowed.

The retailer's total sales increased 1.4% in 2011 to SEK95.2bn. Net income more than doubled to SEK1.4bn as ICA lapped a year in which it incurred a tax charge of SEK632m.