Retailer also names new CEO for Albert Heijn chain
Net sales for the full year were €62.8 billion, up 2.5% at constant exchange rates.
The retailer’s U.S. business posted a 2.7% comparable sales gain (excluding gasoline) in the fourth quarter. Ahold Delhaize cited a slightly favorable weather impact and lower inflation than in the previous quarter in its U.S. operations. Online sales were a bright spot in Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. results, growing at a faster 12.1% clip in the quarter. The company also said that its Food Lion continued to benefit from the roll-out of its “Easy, Fresh and Affordable” program, which has expanded to 70% of the chain’s stores. The company said it expected that all of its U.S. brands have seen market share gains compared to last year.
In the Netherlands, the company reported a 3.3% comparable sales increase compared to a strong fourth quarter last year. The Albert Heijn chain saw comparable sales growth in both supermarkets and online, despite seeing its market share slip. The Bol.com e-commerce site reported 32.3% growth in net consumer online sales in the fourth quarter. It had €2.1 billion in net consumer online sales for the full year.
Ahold Delhaize posted fourth quarter comparable store sales growth 3% in Belgium, which the company attributes to improved operational performance, and 2% in central and southeastern Europe.
For the full year 2018, the company expects underlying earnings per share from continuing operations to be at the higher end of our previous guidance of €1.50-1.60. Full year free cash flow is expected to be more than €2.0 billion, supported by further improvements in net working capital. Capital expenditure for 2018 is expected to be €1.8 billion, in line with previous guidance, the company said.
Marit van Egmond, who currently serves as executive vice president of commerce at Albert Heijn, will take over as the chain’s brand president and CEO, effective February 1. She will succeed Wouter Kolk, who will focus on his duties as CEO of Ahold Delhaize Europe and Indonesia.
“I am happy that Marit will take over leadership of Albert Heijn,” Kolk said. “Her deep knowledge of food retail is impressive, having led winning teams, launched innovations and successfully implemented them in fast-changing environments. Next to that, she has built a sustainable network of partners and suppliers. I look forward to continue working with her and wish her all the best in her new role.”