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    Ahold's Q4, Full-year Results Mixed to Flat

    AMSTERDAM ¿ Mixed-to-flat results at its U.S. retail operations contributed to a bumpy fourth quarter and year for Ahold, the retail conglomerate based here, said yesterday. Giant-Carlisle continued as Ahold's bright spot in terms of performance.

    AMSTERDAM – Mixed-to-flat results at its U.S. retail operations contributed to a bumpy fourth quarter and year for Ahold, the retail conglomerate based here, said yesterday. Giant-Carlisle continued as Ahold's bright spot in terms of performance.

    Ahold reported consolidated net sales of 10.4 billion euros (USD $13.5 billion) for the fourth quarter of 2006, a 3.7 percent decline from the year-ago period, which was mainly due to a weaker U.S. dollar and decidedly mixed performances from its American businesses. Full-year consolidated net sales, at 44.9 billion euros (USD $58.5 billion, increased 2 percent vs. last year, and at constant exchange rates, net sales rose 2.7 percent.

    Fourth-quarter net sales in the Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover arena rose 0.1 percent, to $3.8 billion, while identical sales declined 2 percent at Stop & Shop (2.3 percent, excluding gasoline net sales) and 2.1 percent at Giant-Landover.

    Also during the quarter, comp sales decreased 1.5 percent at Stop & Shop and 1.8 percent at Giant-Landover.

    For the full year 2006, net sales in the arena inched up 0.6 percent, to $16.4 billion, but identical sales fell 1.3 percent at Stop & Shop (2 percent, excluding gasoline net sales) and 1.6 percent at Giant-Landover, and comparable sales dipped 0.8 percent at Stop & Shop and 1.2 percent at Giant-Landover.

    Ahold said in a statement that Stop & Shop/Giant-Landover margins were affected by price investments related to the further rollout of the banner's Value Improvement Program, which slashes prices across categories.

    For the Giant-Carlisle/Tops arena, fourth-quarter net sales decreased 2.7 percent, to $1.4 billion. While identical sales grew 3.1 percent at Giant-Carlisle (1.8 percent, excluding gasoline net sales), they decreased 2.9 percent at Tops (4.3 percent, excluding gasoline net sales). Also, comparable sales rose 4.5 percent at Giant-Carlisle, but went down 2.9 percent at Tops.

    Full-year net sales in the arena declined 3.3 percent, to $6 billion. Identical and comp sales at Giant-Carlisle went up 3.9 percent (2.1 percent excluding gasoline net sales) and 6 percent, respectively, but plummeted 5.5 percent (6.6 percent, excluding gasoline net sales) and 4.8 percent, respectively, at Tops.

    At the troubled U.S. Foodservice unit, which Ahold in November said it would sell, along with its remaining Tops units in New York and Pennsylvania, among other underperforming assets, fourth-quarter net sales grew 5.1 percent, to $4.4 billion, with cost inflation about 1 percent for the quarter. Full-year net sales rose 4.1 percent, to $19.2 billion, with year-over-year comparisons adversely affected by about 0.8 percent as a result of exiting the Sofco business in the third quarter of 2005.

    Of the company's European holdings, its flagship grocery chain, Albert Heijn, continued to be the star player, logging net sales for the quarter of 1.6 billion euros (USD $2.1 billion), an 11.8 percent rise, and an identical-sales increase of 9 percent, while net sales for the full year at the banner surged 8.6 percent, to 6.5 billion euros, and full-year identical sales grew 6.7 percent.

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