Last Refreshed: 5/26/2024 4:41:33 AM
Press release

Ahold Delhaize reports solid first quarter and reiterates 2024 outlook

  • Throughout Q1 2024, our brands delivered value for customers despite continued economic headwinds. Teams in all our brands are working hard to offset inflation and ensure healthy food remains affordable for customers. We are starting to see the benefits from structural changes in our business related to the Belgium Future Plan and cost savings initiatives in the prior year.
  • Q1 Group net sales were €21.7 billion, up 1.3% at constant exchange rates and up 0.4% at actual exchange rates. Q1 comparable sales excluding gas increased by 1.6% for the Group, with an increase of 0.8% in the U.S. and an increase of 2.8% in Europe.
  • Net consumer online sales decreased by 1.0% in Q1 at constant exchange rates, negatively impacted by 5.7 percentage points due to the divestment of FreshDirect. This was partially offset by double-digit growth at Food Lion and Hannaford and accelerating growth at Albert Heijn.
  • Q1 underlying operating margin was 4.0%, in line with the prior year. Improvements in European performance were offset by modest declines in the U.S.
  • Q1 IFRS operating income was €803 million and IFRS diluted EPS was €0.54. IFRS results were €58 million lower than underlying results primarily due to costs related to the Belgium Future Plan.
  • Q1 diluted underlying EPS was €0.59, a decrease of 2.9% compared to the prior year at actual rates.
  • The Company reiterates its 2024 full-year outlook, including underlying operating margin of ≥4.0%; underlying EPS at around 2023 levels; free cash flow of around €2.3 billion; and net capital expenditures of around €2.2 billion.

Zaandam, the Netherlands, May 8, 2024 – Ahold Delhaize, one of the world’s largest food retail groups and a leader in both supermarkets and e-commerce, reports first quarter results today.

Last Refreshed: 5/26/2024 4:41:33 AM

Summary of key financial data

  1. Comparable sales excluding gasoline, net consumer online sales, underlying operating income and related margin, diluted underlying EPS, free cash flow and the percentage changes at constant rates are alternative performance measures that are used throughout this report. For a description of alternative performance measures, and a reconciliation between percentage changes and percentage changes at constant rates, see Note 13 (refer to Interim Report for notes) to the interim financial statements.
  2. Comparative amounts have been restated to conform to the current year's presentation (see Note 2; refer to Interim Report for notes).

Comments from Frans Muller, President and CEO of Ahold Delhaize

"I am pleased to report a stable first quarter, placing us well on track to reach our goals and aspirations for the year. The external environment remained challenging, similar to the second half of 2023. Our brands have been very active during the quarter in delivering great value, quality and savings to customers, creatively using the full spectrum of their own-brand assortments and omnichannel toolkits.

"Group net sales grew 1.3% at constant rates, while comparable sales excluding gas increased by 1.6%. These are strong results, when taking into account the divestment of FreshDirect and the end of tobacco sales in the Netherlands. In the U.S., net sales declined by 0.6% at constant rates, while comparable sales growth excluding gas was 0.8%, positively impacted by calendar shifts. Net sales in Europe grew by 4.6% at constant rates, while comparable sales growth was 2.8%. Sales were supported by the timing of Easter and the cycling of the strike impact at Delhaize. The end of tobacco sales at Albert Heijn had a negative impact of 1.9 percentage points on Europe's comparable sales growth.

“As we tee up to our new strategic plan, we are working hard to ensure we are fit and ready to transition to a more robust growth profile. Further simplifying our organization and maintaining a strong cadence in our Save for Our Customers program to sustain growth investments and drive innovation are key focus areas for both our regions. The largest of these simplification initiatives this year is the Belgium Future Plan. One year into the plan, the Delhaize team has made great progress and achieved many significant milestones. In February, Delhaize finalized agreements to franchise all of the 128 own-operated stores. To date, 76 stores have already transitioned to their new owners and we expect that all conversions will have taken place by the end of the year. From the stores already transitioned, we are seeing promising results, with customer frequency and basket size trending upwards.

“This will play an important role in European margin recovery in the coming years. Despite high levels of year-over-year cost inflation, I am pleased that we saw margin improvements during Q1 in Europe, with a 0.3 percentage-point rise. These improvements ensure we can maintain overall consistent margins at a Group level, while, at the same time, allowing us more flexibility to invest in our customer value propositions in the U.S., particularly in those areas that were hardest hit by inflation and a reduction in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

“The impact can already be seen in our first quarter profitability numbers, as we delivered a consistent underlying operating margin of 4.0%. As a result, diluted underlying EPS was €0.59, slightly lower than last year, due to foreign exchange rates and higher financing expenses and income taxes. On an IFRS basis, we delivered operating income of €803 million and diluted EPS of €0.54. IFRS results were negatively impacted by costs related to the transition of stores as part of the Belgium Future Plan.

"In the U.S., our decision to orient our online fulfilment capabilities towards more efficient, less asset intense same-day delivery models, such as click and collect, is also paying off. Our online sales in the U.S. grew 4.7% in the first quarter on a like-for-like basis, fueled by new customer growth, as well as strong retention of existing e-commerce customers. Driving more growth and leverage from our online capabilities is also a top priority for our European teams, as we continue to benefit from increasing demand and new external partnerships. For example, in the Benelux region, our brands are offering new, innovative propositions for business customers, with the ambition to offer quality and accessible services to a wide range of companies at an affordable price. Albert Heijn has entered new partnerships with large child care services and healthcare providers. The brand has also started offering all business customers a standard 10% discount on all organic products and items from AH Terra, Albert Heijn’s fully plant-based own-brand product line, as we extend our health and sustainability ambitions from the home to the workplace. In total, our strong grocery online sales growth of 10.7% in Europe in the first quarter shows why our online business is such a powerful competitive advantage for our future growth in the region.

"In line with Ahold Delhaize's annual report, several of our brands issued sustainability reports during the quarter. These include many examples of the health and sustainability initiatives the brands have in place and are undertaking. To support the further reduction of our scope 3 carbon emissions, all our brands in Europe have now launched climate hubs to help suppliers set their own reduction targets. Ahold Delhaize USA launched a first supplier collaboration focusing on reducing carbon emissions, with several more to follow this year.

"Given the solid start to the year, we reconfirm our guidance for 2024. It is an important year for our company, as we pivot to our refreshed strategy, which we are very much looking forward to unveiling on May 23. With our strong market positions, our financial strength and the great foundational work we have carried out over the last few years, I am confident we have a great starting point and strong plans for our next phase of growth."

 

Q1 Financial highlights

Group highlights

Group net sales were €21.7 billion, an increase of 1.3% at constant exchange rates, and up 0.4% at actual exchange rates. Group net sales were driven by comparable sales growth excluding gasoline of 1.6% and the net opening of new stores, including the conversion of Jan Linders stores, partially offset by lower gasoline sales and the divestment of FreshDirect. Q1 Group comparable sales had a net positive impact of approximately 1.2 percentage points from weather and calendar shifts and an approximate 0.3 percentage point positive impact from cycling prior year strikes in Belgium, which more than offsets the 0.7 percentage point negative impact from the cessation of tobacco sales at own-operated supermarkets in the Netherlands.

In Q1, Group net consumer online sales decreased by 1.0% at constant exchange rates, negatively impacted by 5.7 percentage points due to the divestment of FreshDirect. This was partially offset by double digit growth at Food Lion and Hannaford and accelerating growth at Albert Heijn.

Group underlying operating margin was 4.0%, consistent with Q1 2023 at constant exchange rates. Improvements in European performance offset modest declines in the U.S.

In Q1, Group IFRS operating income was €803 million, representing an IFRS operating margin of 3.7%. IFRS results were €58 million lower than underlying results, primarily due to costs related to the Belgium Future Plan. Underlying income from continuing operations was €557 million, a decrease of 6.1% in the quarter at actual rates. Ahold Delhaize's IFRS net income in the quarter was €513 million. Diluted EPS was €0.54 and diluted underlying EPS was €0.59, down 2.9% at actual currency rates compared to last year's results. In the quarter, Ahold Delhaize purchased 8.0 million own shares for €214 million.

 

U.S. highlights

U.S. net sales were €13.3 billion, a decrease of 0.6% at constant exchange rates and down 1.8% at actual exchange rates. U.S. comparable sales excluding gasoline increased by 0.8%, and saw a net positive impact of approximately 1.3 percentage points from weather and calendar shifts, primarily related to the timing of New Year's Eve and Easter. Strong growth in pharmacy was offset by the non-recurrence of emergency SNAP benefits, the moderation of inflation rates, the divestment of FreshDirect and lower gasoline sales. Food Lion and Hannaford continue to lead the U.S. brands' performance, with 46 and 11 consecutive quarters of positive sales growth, respectively.

In Q1, online sales in the segment declined 10.1% in constant currency, negatively impacted by 14.8 percentage points due to the divestment of FreshDirect. This was partially offset by double-digit growth at Food Lion and Hannaford.

Underlying operating margin in the U.S. was 4.6%, down 0.2 percentage points due to higher shrink, store labor and hired service costs, which was partially offset by the margin mix benefit from the divestment of FreshDirect.

In Q1, U.S. IFRS operating margin was 4.8%. IFRS results were €21 million higher than underlying results, in part due to the gain on the sale of the meat packaging facilities.

 

Europe highlights

European net sales were €8.5 billion, an increase of 4.6% at constant exchange rates and 4.1% at actual exchange rates. The higher net sales were largely due to an increase in comparable sales of 2.8% and the net opening of new stores, including the conversion of Jan Linders stores. Europe's comparable sales included a net negative impact of 1.9 percentage points from the end of tobacco sales at own-operated supermarkets in the Netherlands, which offset the net positive impact of 0.8 percentage points from calendar shifts and the positive impact of 0.7 percentage points from cycling prior year strikes in Belgium.

In Q1, net consumer online sales increased by 4.7%, driven by double-digit growth in grocery online sales.

Underlying operating margin in Europe was 3.2%, up 0.3 percentage points. Performance recovery in Belgium, in part due to cycling prior year strikes, and lower energy costs were partially offset by higher labor costs and an increase in the non-cash service charge for the Netherlands' employee pension plan. Europe's Q1 IFRS operating margin was 2.2%. IFRS results were €80 million lower than underlying results, mainly due to costs associated with the Belgium Future Plan.

 

Outlook

Ahold Delhaize reiterates the Group's 2024 outlook, which we announced when we published our Q4 2023 results. Underlying operating margin is expected to be 4.0% or higher, in line with the Company's historical profile. Underlying EPS is expected to be at around 2023 levels at current exchange rates. Free cash flow is expected to be around €2.3 billion. Net capital expenditures are expected to total around €2.2 billion, lower than the prior year, mainly due to divestments of facilities in the U.S. Overall, we continue to maintain strong levels of investments into our brands' store networks and the further rollout of omnichannel capabilities, as well as in advancing our healthy and sustainable initiatives.

The following are changes in the business that will impact comparable performance for 2024 and have been incorporated into our Outlook:

  • The divestment of FreshDirect will reduce the amount of 2024 reported net sales and online sales for the U.S. segment by $600 million.
  • Albert Heijn net sales will be impacted by the cessation of tobacco sales in 2024. Albert Heijn stopped selling tobacco in its own-operated supermarkets on January 1, 2024 and all supermarkets on July 1, 2024. This will have around a two to three percentage-point impact on reported and comparable store sales in Europe in 2024.

The acquisition of Profi is expected to close in the second half of 2024, and will double the size of our operations in Romania. As the timing of the closing is uncertain, our 2024 Outlook excludes any impact from this transaction.

  1. Excludes M&A.

  2. Calculated as a percentage of underlying income from continuing operations.

  3. Management remains committed to our share buyback and dividend programs, but, given the uncertainty caused by the wider macro-economic consequences due to increased geopolitical unrest, will continue to monitor macro-economic developments. The program is also subject to changes resulting from corporate activities, such as material M&A activity.

  • Underlying Performance & Financial Results
  • Business Highlights
Underlying Performance & Financial Results
Business Highlights
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Cautionary notice

This communication contains information that qualifies as inside information within the meaning of Article 7(1) of the EU Market Abuse Regulation.

This communication includes forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical facts may be forward-looking statements. Words and expressions such as solid, through(out), value, continu(e)/(ed)/(ing), ensure, see(ing), full-year, outlook, largest, lead(er), stable, on track, reach, goals, aspirations, remain(ed)/(s), active, delivering, strong, impacted, working hard, transition, growth, simplifying, maintain(ing), drive, key, progress, significant, milestones, will, important, can, impact(ed), consistent, driving, offering, extend, ambitions, support, reduc(tion)/(e), help, to follow, reconfirm, guidance, strategy, looking forward, due to, expected, uncertain(ty)/(ties), committed, subject to, by, driven, development, risks, provides, recognized, strategic, may, yet, anticipate, decrease, successfully, achieving, targets, 2030, considers, changes or other similar words or expressions are typically used to identify forward-looking statements.

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, including high levels of inflation, on consumer spending; changes in consumer expectations and preferences; turbulence in the global capital markets; political developments, natural disasters and pandemics; wars and geopolitical conflicts; climate change; energy supply issues; 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 environmental, social and governance matters (including performance) 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; ransomware and other cybersecurity issues relating to 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; inability to obtain effective levels of insurance coverage; 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.

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