Dutch giant Ahold, operator of US grocery chains Stop & Shop and Giant, has suffered a 42% fall in second-quarter net profit to €195m (£163m).

The results were impacted by an unfavourable comparative with last year’s period, when earnings were boosted by the sale of its Schuitema stores in Europe - which netted the group €162m.

Stripping out the impact of discontinued operations in both years, Ahold said net profit would have risen 8.5%.

The retailer revealed it improved margins despite the economic downturn.

Chief executive John Rishton said Ahold was “well positioned” to increase profits in future quarters despite an “increasingly competitive environment.”

Ahold has been running a cost-cutting programme since late 2006, which has included the sale of non-core operations.

The retailer has sought to offload businesses in Poland and Slovakia, and reduce operating costs by 500m euros by the end of this year.