Zaandam, the Netherlands, August 8, 2018 – Ahold Delhaize, one of the world’s largest food retail groups and a leader in both supermarkets and e-commerce, reports a solid second quarter with increased sales and margins, unfavorably impacted by the timing of Easter, and delivery of strong earnings and free cash flow growth.
Frans Muller, CEO of Ahold Delhaize, said: “During the second quarter of 2018 our business continued to perform well and we remain on track with the execution of our strategy, building great local brands and strengthening our leading positions in our major markets, both in our stores and online.
"Second quarter sales rose 0.9% at constant exchange rates, and 2.4% adjusted for Easter and remedy stores sold in 2017. Net consumer online sales grew 23% across the group, keeping us on pace to realize nearly €5 billion in online consumer sales by 2020.
"We continue to innovate and improve our offering, focusing on health and convenience. During the quarter, various initiatives were deployed both in the United States and in Europe, offering our customers choices for a more healthy lifestyle. These initiatives included the launch of the My Nutritional Value online tool to help Albert Heijn customers gain more insight into the nutritional value of their groceries. Throughout our network, we continue to make shopping more convenient in our stores, by expanding our range of meal kits and freshly made meals, providing an easy solution for time-constrained customers, and by piloting and rolling out seamless checkout options for customers.
"In the United States, comparable sales growth excluding gasoline was -0.1%, or 1.0% adjusted for the timing of Easter. Volumes at Hannaford and Food Lion remained positive but were challenged at the other US brands. We expect the implementation of our brand-centric organization to result in an improvement in sales trends in the third quarter.
"In the Netherlands, comparable sales growth was 2.9%, or 3.8% adjusted for the timing of Easter, supported by the ongoing strong growth of bol.com and ah.nl. In Belgium, Delhaize comparable sales growth was 1.4%, or 2.3% adjusted for the timing of Easter, as the brand continues to improve its commercial and operational performance. For Central and Southeastern Europe, comparable sales growth was 0.5%, or 1.1% adjusted for the timing of Easter. The strong performance in Romania and the Czech Republic was offset by the impact of ongoing changes in the competitive landscape in Greece.
"Free cash flow was €693 million, confirming our target of about €1.9 billion for 2018. The strong cash-generating capacity of our businesses allows us to keep investing in our store network and in our rapidly growing online businesses. During the quarter, we announced a significant investment at bol.com, more than doubling its warehouse capacity by 2021.
"As part of these investments, we have announced the launch of Peapod Digital Labs, which will drive innovation, expertise and accelerate growth by creating a shared e-commerce infrastructure for all of our brands in the United States. We look forward to provide more detail on this at our Capital Markets Day on November 13 in New England. In addition, we will be sharing our exciting initiatives to update the Stop & Shop brand, our largest business in the United States, with a fresh new format which will be launched later this year."
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