Ahold cautious for 2014 as profit margin narrows

BRUSSELS Thu Feb 27, 2014 1:06am EST

BRUSSELS Feb 27 (Reuters) - Dutch supermarket group Ahold said it was cautious about the year ahead after its operating margin in the fourth quarter contracted compared to the previous year.

Ahold said the fall in operating margin to 4.3 percent from 4.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 was due to higher pension costs and a weaker dollar.

Underlying operating profit fell 7.5 percent in the fourth quarter to 320 million euros ($437.34 million), ahead of the 307 million expected in a Reuters poll of 12 analysts.

The group, which makes three-fifths of its revenue in the United States, said in January that sales fell by 4.2 percent, or 1.1 percent at constant exchange rates, to 7.47 billion euros ($10.2 billion).

Ahold upped its dividend to 0.47 euros per share from the 0.44 it paid out for 2012. ($1 = 0.7317 euros) (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

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