Dutch grocer Ahold reported better than expected fourth quarter results after winning market share in its home country and reaping the benefits of its revamped stores in the US.

Ahold posted a 49 per cent rise in EBIT to E365m (£326.9m) against analyst forecasts of E310m (£277.7m) for the period. Its full-year operating income was up 12 per cent to E1.2bn (£1.07bn).

In the US, Ahold completed the rebranding of its Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover businesses. In the fourth quarter, net sales rose 2.8 per cent at the two chains to US$4bn (£2.84bn). Same-store sales were up 2.3 per cent at Stop & Shop and 1.1 per cent at Giant-Landover.

In its domestic market, net sales jumped 11.6 per cent to E2.2bn at its Albert Heijn fascia.

Ahold chief executive John Rishto said: “We are confident that we have the right strategy, business model and customer offering.” He was confident of delivering the longer-term goal of a sustainable 5 per cent sales growth and 5 per cent retail operating margin.

Bernstein analyst Christopher Hogbin said the results were tempered by a lack of guidance for this year. “Since the company is already achieving a 5 per cent retail margin, achieving the longer-term targets would suggest only modest earnings growth,” he said.

On a positive note he added that Ahold had stated it had not seen “significant changes in consumer behaviour” in the first weeks of this year.

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