1 from continuing operations
Zaandam, the Netherlands, August 5, 2020 – Ahold Delhaize, one of the world’s largest food retail groups and a leader in both supermarkets and eCommerce, reports second quarter and half year results today.
The interim report for the second quarter and half year 2020 can be viewed and downloaded at www.aholddelhaize.com.
Summary of key financial data
Comments from Frans Muller, President and CEO of Ahold Delhaize
"COVID-19 has presented adversity across society and business. It has impacted our communities, associates, customers, and their families. I would like to thank associates across all our local brands and support offices for their outstanding service during this crisis. Their agility and dedication have ensured the safety of our stores and distribution centers, sustained the strength of our supply chains, and helped nourish families and local communities. I am grateful for the commitment they have shown and continue to show. I am also pleased that we were able to make important investments in additional safety measures, enhanced associate pay and benefits, and significant charitable donations, including to several local food banks. Additionally, our brands hired more than 45,000 associates globally in Q2.
"The engagement and strong execution of our teams have translated this unprecedented demand in both the U.S. and Europe, due to COVID-19, into outstanding results. These developments, along with the benefit of comparing against the same quarter last year, when we saw a negative impact from the strike at the Stop & Shop brand in the U.S., have led to strong underlying operating margin performance in the quarter.
"Our Q2 performance illustrates the challenge all companies are facing in predicting results in the highly uncertain environment created by COVID-19. Despite the high levels of market uncertainty, we are accelerating investments to support our increasing digital and omnichannel ambitions and raising our 2020 outlook due to our strong performance in the first half of the year. We now expect that our group underlying operating margin will be higher than in 2019, with underlying EPS growth in the low-to-mid-20% range. We are also raising our free cash flow target to at least €1.7 billion, net of paying the majority of the recently announced tentative U.S. pension plan withdrawal agreement.
"We continue to adapt to the changes we are seeing in consumer shopping patterns and behavior. One of these changes is the increased demand for our online offerings, which, combined with investments to increase capacity, has resulted in net consumer online sales growth of 127% in the U.S., at constant exchange rates, and 64% in Europe. Our increased investments in digital and omnichannel capabilities should lead to continued wallet share gains. As a result, we now expect over 55% growth in global net consumer online sales in 2020. This puts us on track to reach our goal of doubling global net consumer online sales from €3.5 billion in 2018 to €7 billion in 2020, one year earlier than we outlined at our November 2018 Capital Markets Day.
"We also remain dedicated to health and sustainability in these challenging times. During the second quarter, we published our inaugural Human Rights Report, outlining the steps we are taking to safeguard human rights. We also issued our first Sustainability Bond Report in June 2020, documenting how we used bond financing from 2019 to support sustainable products, reduce climate impacts and promote healthier eating. We have subsequently announced our commitment to achieve long-term, science-based targets on climate change, including the goal to reduce our own carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and a new goal to reduce emissions from our overall value chain by 15%. After officially becoming a supporter of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), we are in the process of developing voluntary and consistent climate-related risk disclosures.
"Our second quarter results reflect excellent operational execution by associates during the COVID-19 crisis. We will continue to make protecting and investing in the health and safety of associates and customers, as well as supporting our local communities, our top priorities."
Q2 Financial highlights
Group net sales were €19.1 billion, up 17.1%, or 15.9% at constant exchange rates, driven largely by 16.4% comparable sales growth excluding gasoline. Group comparable sales were mainly driven by demand related to COVID-19 and, to a lesser extent, benefited from the comparison against Q2 2019, when the strike and subsequent recovery at Stop & Shop in the U.S. unfavorably impacted sales by 2.0 percentage points. Group net consumer online sales grew 77.6% in Q2 at constant exchange rates. Group underlying operating margin in Q2 was 5.3%, up 1.7 percentage points from the prior year at constant exchange rates, benefiting largely from higher operating leverage due to higher sales trends related to COVID-19 as well as lapping the roughly €90 million operating profit headwind caused by the strike at Stop & Shop in the U.S. in the prior year's quarter. This was offset in part by significant costs related to COVID-19, which amounted to approximately €260 million in Q2, and approximately €330 million in the first half of the year.
U.S. comparable store sales excluding gasoline grew 20.6%, with all brands generating double-digit comparable sales growth. This was due largely to the COVID-19 outbreak and the lapping of last year's Stop & Shop strike, which unfavorably impacted Q2 2019 sales in the U.S. by 3.2 percentage points. Online sales in the segment were up 126.8% in constant currency. U.S. underlying operating margin was 6.1%, up 2.5 percentage points from the prior year at constant exchange rates, driven largely by operating leverage from higher sales growth due to COVID-19, as well as the aforementioned Stop & Shop strike (roughly €90 million).
Europe's comparable sales excluding gasoline grew 10.2%, due largely to demand related to COVID-19, slightly offset by an unfavorable calendar shift impact of -0.1 percentage points in the quarter. Net consumer online sales in the segment were up 63.9%. Underlying operating margin in Europe was 4.5%, relatively flat compared to the prior year. Operating leverage from higher sales growth was largely offset by higher costs related to COVID-19 as well as €11 million of pension expense in the Netherlands during the quarter.
At bol.com, the online retail platform in the Benelux included within the Europe segment's results, net consumer sales grew by 65.4%. Bol.com's third-party sales grew 107% in the quarter, with nearly 34,000 merchant partners on the platform.
Ahold Delhaize's net income was €693 million, up 107.6% in the quarter. Diluted EPS was €0.65, up 115.6%, and diluted underlying EPS was €0.65, up 87.9%. Nearly 8.1 million shares were purchased in the quarter for €183 million, bringing the total amount to €519 million in the first half of the year. The 2020 interim dividend is €0.50, up 67% versus the prior year, and represents 40% of first half 2020 underlying income per share from continuing operations.
COVID-19 continues to create significant uncertainty for the 2020 outlook, though, due to the Company's strong performance in the first half of the year, guidance for underlying operating margin, underlying EPS, and free cash flow is being raised.
IFRS results will be unfavorably impacted by the withdrawal agreement to the UFCW International Union – Industry Pension Fund announced on July 21, 2020. If ratified by the UFCW Locals, the transaction will be treated as an extraordinary item and will, therefore, not impact the underlying operating results outlook for 2020.
Underlying operating margin is now expected to be higher than 2019 versus broadly in line with 2019 as previously expected. Embedded in this margin outlook is a lower margin rate in the second half of the year compared with the first half of the year. This is due to the expectation that sales growth will moderate relative to the first half of the year, which creates an operating deleverage effect when factoring in significant ongoing costs related to COVID-19 as well as investments in digital/omnichannel capabilities.
The underlying EPS outlook for 2020, however, has been raised to low-to-mid-20% growth from mid-single-digit growth.
The 2020 free cash flow outlook has also been raised to at least €1.7 billion, compared to the previous outlook of over €1.5 billion, and now includes the effect of paying the majority of the €583 million pre-tax obligation for a tentative agreement to withdraw from the UFCW International Union – Industry Pension Fund and contribute to the transition reserve for the new variable annuity pension plan at Stop & Shop, which was announced on July 21, 2020. The capital expenditure guidance of around €2.5 billion is maintained and now also reflects the Company's accelerated investments in digital and omnichannel capabilities. In addition, Ahold Delhaize remains committed to its dividend policy and share buyback program in 2020, as previously stated.
This press release contains information that qualifies as inside information within the meaning of Article 7(1) of the EU Market Abuse Regulation.
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Forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors that are difficult to predict and that may cause the actual results of Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize N.V. (the “Company”) to differ materially from future results expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to, risks relating to the Company’s inability to successfully implement its strategy, manage the growth of its business or realize the anticipated benefits of acquisitions; risks relating to competition and pressure on profit margins in the food retail industry; the impact of economic conditions on consumer spending; turbulence in the global capital markets; natural disasters, pandemics and geopolitical events; climate change; raw material scarcity and human rights developments in the supply chain; disruption of operations and other factors negatively affecting the Company’s suppliers; the unsuccessful operation of the Company’s franchised and affiliated stores; changes in supplier terms and the inability to pass on cost increases to prices; risks related to corporate responsibility and sustainable retailing; food safety issues resulting in product liability claims and adverse publicity; environmental liabilities associated with the properties that the Company owns or leases; competitive labor markets, changes in labor conditions and labor disruptions; increases in costs associated with the Company’s defined benefit pension plans; the failure or breach of security of IT systems; the Company’s inability to successfully complete divestitures and the effect of contingent liabilities arising from completed divestitures; antitrust and similar legislation; unexpected outcomes in the Company’s legal proceedings; additional expenses or capital expenditures associated with compliance with federal, regional, state and local laws and regulations; unexpected outcomes with respect to tax audits; the impact of the Company’s outstanding financial debt; the Company’s ability to generate positive cash flows; fluctuation in interest rates; the change in reference interest rate; the impact of downgrades of the Company’s credit ratings and the associated increase in the Company’s cost of borrowing; exchange rate fluctuations; inherent limitations in the Company’s control systems; changes in accounting standards; adverse results arising from the Company’s claims against its self-insurance program; the Company’s inability to locate appropriate real estate or enter into real estate leases on commercially acceptable terms; and other factors discussed in the Company’s public filings and other disclosures.
Forward-looking statements reflect the current views of the Company’s management and assumptions based on information currently available to the Company’s management. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and the Company does not assume any obligation to update such statements, except as required by law.