Golden Gallon divestment and exchange rates blamed
Dutch retail giant Ahold revealed a slip in fourth-quarter sales to Eu12.3 billion (£8.62 billion), down from Eu12.7 billion (£8.9 billion) for the same period last year. The retailer attributed the performance to the impact of low currency exchange rates and the divestment of its Golden Gallon business in the US.

Group net sales were£52 billion last year, down from£56.1 billion the year before. In the US, Ahold's net sales in dollars rose 10.2 per cent during the 13 weeks to January 2 this year, to US$6.9 billion (£4.84 billion). However, the fourth quarter for 2003 consisted of only 12 weeks. If that period were adjusted to 13 weeks, like-for-like sales in the US would have fallen by 0.78 per cent.

In its European operations, net sales increased from Eu3.2 billion (£2.24 billion) to Eu3.3 billion (£2.31 billion). Net sales would have fallen 4.2 per cent compared with the adjusted fourth quarter of 2003.