January 17, 2013 / 7:06 AM / in 5 years

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Dutch Ahold's sales gets Hurricane Sandy boost

(Corrects fifth paragraph to show Ahold in northeast of U.S., not northwest)

* Q4 sales 7.835 bln euros vs Reuters poll average 7.84 bln

* U.S. identical store sales up 1.4 pct

* Dutch identical stores sales up 0.2 pct

BRUSSELS, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Dutch grocer Ahold said exceptionally strong U.S. sales, with customers stocking up ahead of Hurricane Sandy, propelled group revenues by 5.1 percent in the final three months of last year.

Ahold, which runs Stop & Shop, Giant-Landover and Giant-Carlisle in the United States and makes about 60 percent of its sales in that country, said it grew market share in all of its U.S. divisions.

The strong group sales growth in the final quarter compared with 3.7 percent growth at constant exchange rate in the third quarter and 3.0 percent in first nine months.

Sales at stores open for at least a year, and excluding fuel, rose 1.4 percent in the United States.

Concentrated in the northeast of the country, Ahold’s U.S. stores have performed better than those of Belgian rival Delhaize, with a greater presence in the southeast states.

Identical store sales in the Netherlands rose 0.2 percent in the final three months of 2012, a slowdown from the 2.5 percent in the third quarter and 1.5 percent in the second quarter.

Ahold said the deceleration in the final quarter was partly caused by tough competition facing its vitamins-to-cosmetics chain Etos.

Ahold’s main brand in the Netherlands, Dutch supermarket leader Albert Heijn, increased its market share and opened three additional stores in neighbouring Belgium, bringing the total number in that country to 11.

The group said that identical sales at its stores in the Czech Republic and Slovakia fell by 2.5 percent excluding fuel, mainly caused by a increase in value-added tax.

Overall, sales came in at 7.835 billion euros ($10.4 billion), in line with the average forecast of 7.84 billion euros in a Reuters poll of 12 analysts. ($1 = 0.7521 euros) (Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

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