ID NEWS: Ahold 3rd quarter better than expected; USF achieves 5.9% sales gain

Royal Ahold, Zaandam, The Netherlands, reported a sales decline of 7.1% to 13.0 euros in consolidated third-quarter business, as compared with the same period in 2002. Results for the quarter, through October 5, were significantly impacted by lower currency exchange rates, in particular the U.S. dollar. Sales excluding the currency impact increased 2.7%.

Margin squeeze, particularly at Ahold's Columbia, MD, based U.S. Foodservice (USF) subsidiary, is expected to impact 2003 operating income.

Net sales at USF increased 5.9% to $4.3 billion, as compared with $4.0 billion for the same period in 2002. The increase was partially achieved through "low-margin business." Acquisitions of Allen Foods, St. Louis, and Lady Baltimore, Kansas City, in December and September 2002, respectively, contributed approximately 2% of the distributor's sales growth.

Ahold's third-quarter performance is slightly ahead of an analysts' consensus forecast of 12.7 billion euros, according to Dow Jones Newswires. U.S. retail and foodservice businesses did better than anticipated.
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