CEO Dick Boer said: “In the United States we continue to operate in a very competitive environment with low inflation. With limited sales growth we gained market share in the supermarket segment and maintained our share in the all-outlet market. We were able to maintain a solid underlying operating margin, supported by continuous cost savings.
“In the Netherlands, weak consumer sentiment was reflected in a further slowdown of market growth. We saw transactions remaining stable, albeit with a lower basket size and with consumers increasingly looking for value, impacting our market share performance this quarter. The underlying operating margin remained stable versus last year.
“We remain committed to our Reshaping Retail strategy and will continue to invest in growth, in both existing and new markets. Our online activities continue to show strong sales growth, both in food and non-food and we continue to rapidly expand our network of pick-up points, especially in the United States. Albert Heijn expects to have around half of the 82 acquired C1000 / Jumbo stores converted to its banner by the end of 2013 and is well on track expanding into Belgium.
“We expect similar conditions to continue in the current quarter with consumer spending under pressure, especially in the Netherlands. Cost savings from our Simplicity program allow us to continue to invest in our competitiveness in both the United States and the Netherlands.
“Our cash generation remains strong and we are committed to an efficient capital structure. We have completed around 30% of our €2 billion share buyback program, which is to be finalized by the end of 2014. In addition, subject to shareholder approval, we will distribute a further capital repayment of €1 billion to our shareholders, followed by a reverse stock split. Shareholder approval will be requested at an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders in January 2014 and we plan to complete this transaction in the first quarter of 2014. We remain committed to maintaining a balance between investing in profitable growth and returning cash to our shareholders and we will continue to move toward our capital structure targets.”
This interim report includes forward-looking statements, which do not refer to historical facts but refer to expectations based on management's current views and assumptions and involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results, performance or events to differ materially from those included in such statements. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to statements as to Ahold’s additional capital repayment and reverse stock split, Reshaping Retail Strategy, continued investments in growth in existing and new markets and rapid expansion of its network of pick-up points, market conditions, Ahold’s investments in competitiveness, efficient capital structure, share buyback program, extraordinary general shareholders meeting on capital repayment and reverse stock split and the relevant shareholders’ approval, balance between investing in profitable growth and returning cash to shareholders, improving its competitive position through cost reductions and the overall simplification of its processes and target promotions and Stop & Shop’s agreement with NETTI. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from future results expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Many of these risks and uncertainties relate to factors that are beyond Ahold’s ability to control or estimate precisely, such as the effect of general economic or political conditions, fluctuations in exchange rates or interest rates, increases or changes in competition, Ahold’s ability to implement and complete successfully its plans and strategies, the benefits from and resources generated by Ahold’s plans and strategies being less than or different from those anticipated, changes in Ahold’s liquidity needs, the actions of competitors and third parties and other factors discussed in Ahold’s public filings and other disclosures. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this interim report. Ahold does not assume any obligation to update any public information or forward-looking statements in this interim report to reflect subsequent events or circumstances, except as may be required by applicable laws. Outside the Netherlands, Koninklijke Ahold N.V., being its registered name, presents itself under the name of “Royal Ahold” or simply “Ahold.”
Financial Summary Third Quarter 2013
Confirmation of our 2013 guidance of underlying operating profit of at least €755 million at identical exchange rates compared to €785 million in 2012 and free cash flow of approximately €500 million
Pierre-Olivier Beckers, President and Chief Executive Officer of Delhaize Group, commented: “We delivered solid results in the U.S. during the third quarter. Food Lion continued to show good momentum as reflected in the fourth consecutive quarter of positive volume and comparable store sales growth. At Hannaford, we experienced similar positive trends supported by further price investments since the second quarter."
“In Belgium, we have maintained market share, helped by network expansion and higher comparable store sales growth. As a result of our decision to increase price investments and promotions, profitability has declined. In Southeastern Europe, we continue to maintain or even improve our market share in the largest three markets. This has resulted in further improved profitability for the region as a whole.”
“For 2013, we reiterate our confidence that the Group will generate an underlying operating profit of at least €755 million at identical exchange rates and a free cash flow of approximately €500 million.”
“Tomorrow, I will hand over my position as CEO of Delhaize Group to Frans Muller. Since joining the company a few weeks ago, Frans has spent a lot of time at our various European and American operations and has already brought a lot of energy to the Group. His experience in food retail combined with continued positive momentum in the Group and our solid balance sheet strengthens my confidence in the future of Delhaize Group.”