Figures brighten Ahold's outlook

The future looks a shade brighter for Ahold, following Tuesday's announcement of promising figures at its Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn and its US retail division.

The retailer has been beset by difficulties following the discovery of accounting irregularities at its Foodservice division last year.

Like-for-like sales at Albert Heijn fell 0.2 per cent in the first quarter, but that was against the backdrop of a price war in The Netherlands. The retailer said in a statement: 'Sales volume at Albert Heijn increased as a result of the price repositioning campaign. The impact of food price deflation was largely offset by a higher sales volume.'

Net sales at the US retail operations fell 1.2 per cent compared with the previous year, but margins stabilised.

'Underlying US retail margins were reassuring at 5.2 per cent,' said broker JP Morgan. 'We were also pleased with Albert Heijn's performance, with operating profits up on the year before.'

Ahold chief executive Anders Moberg has continued to divest its non-core divisions, incurring an overall net loss of EUR405 million (£269 million), compared with a profit of EUR84 million (£55.8 million) in the same period last year.