Zaandam, the Netherlands, May 8, 2019 – Ahold Delhaize, one of the world’s largest food retail groups and a leader in both supermarkets and eCommerce, reports a solid first quarter with growth in sales, underlying operating income and net income at constant exchange rates.
Frans Muller, President and CEO of Ahold Delhaize, said: “The execution of our Leading Together strategy is on track as our results are starting to illustrate. During the quarter, we also launched our new purpose: eat well, save time, live better. These are the guiding principles in everything we do as we execute on our strategy. Throughout our businesses we help our customers make healthier choices. Innovative solutions, both in-store and online, make shopping more convenient and less time-consuming. And to enable our customers to live better, we continue to support the local communities they live in.
“In the U.S., we had a good quarter, as we continue to invest in our customer experience and expand and improve our online offering. This resulted in comparable sales growth of 1.2%, excluding gasoline, or 2.2% adjusted for the timing of Easter. Our underlying operating margin came in at 4.9%, benefiting from synergies and our Save for Our Customers program with savings ahead of investments in our customer proposition.
“In the Netherlands, performance remained solid with net sales up 3.5% compared to a year ago. Net consumer sales at bol.com were up 35.2%. Our underlying operating margin came in at 5.0%, with start up investments in logistics and distribution this quarter. While sales in Belgium were adversely impacted by fewer opening days compared to a year ago, underlying trends show ongoing operational improvements. In Central and Southeastern Europe, the business in the Czech Republic and Romania reported a strong performance again this quarter.
“Free cash flow for the first quarter was negative by €136 million due to the timing of Easter, greater capital expenditure and higher income taxes paid. We remain committed to maintaining a balance between investing in our stores and rapidly growing our online businesses and an efficient, solid capital structure.
“As announced on April 23, we have adjusted our full-year outlook to reflect the one-off impact of the strikes at Stop & Shop. We now anticipate underlying operating margin for the group for 2019 to be slightly lower than 2018. Additionally, the percentage growth of underlying earnings per share in 2019 is revised from high single digits to low single digits. At the same time, we reiterate our expectation for 2019 free cash flow of around €1.8 billion, with capital expenditure of €2.0 billion.
"The period of the strikes has been challenging for everyone. However, we were able to reach fair and responsible agreements for our Stop & Shop associates in New England. We thank our customers for their patience and are welcoming them back to our stores to continue to provide them with great quality, service, selection and value."
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