(Adds details on units)
BRUSSELS Aug 21 Dutch supermarket group Ahold
on Thursday reported weaker-than-expected operating
profit for the second quarter, as sales fell in the United
States and the Netherlands, its biggest markets.
The group, which operates the Stop & Shop and Giant chains
in the United States, where it makes about 60 percent of its
revenues, said U.S. like-for-like sales excluding fuel fell 1.8
percent in the second quarter as it lost market share.
The group added that the timing of Easter also affected
Ahold said its operating margin in the United States also
fell, as it did not pass on higher wholesale prices for meat and
dairy to frugal customers.
In the Netherlands, where Ahold's Albert Heijn chain is the
market leader, like-for-like sales fell 1.7 percent in the three
months ending June 30, an acceleration of the 1.4 percent fall
seen in the first quarter.
Ahold said the fall was due to shoppers on average buying
fewer items in the stores, though margins remained stable from
the previous quarter.
In Belgium, where Ahold operates 23 supermarkets,
like-for-like sales grew by double digits.
Belgian peer Delhaize, with an equally large U.S. operation,
in August reported a better-than-expected performance in the
United States, with like-for-like sales rising 3.3 percent in
its second quarter.
Underlying operating income fell 15.5 percent in the second
quarter to 288 million euros ($381.48 million), below the 294
million expected in a Reuters poll of seven analysts.
($1 = 0.7549 Euros)
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, editing by Martin Santa)