* Q1 op. profit 604 mln euros vs 589 mln expected
* Guides for higher margins in 2017 vs 2016
* Sales fall in U.S. in Q1, expects Q2 improvement
(Adds details on regions)
BRUSSELS, May 10 Retail group Ahold Delhaize
reported on Wednesday a higher-than-expected operating
profit in the first quarter, aided by cost savings that offset
weaker sales in the United States.
The company, which was formed after Dutch Ahold merged with
Belgium's Delhaize last July, reported a first-quarter operating
profit, adjusted for one-off items, of 604 million euros
($657.76 million), above the average forecast of 589 million
euros in a Reuters poll.
Ahold Delhaize said it also expected profit margins for 2017
as a whole to be above those of last year, repeating that it was
still aiming for 220 million euros of savings coming from the
merger this year.
U.S. sales, excluding gasoline, dropped 1.8 percent in the
first quarter for the former Ahold stores, such as Giant and
Stop&Shop, while they were flat for the former Delhaize stores,
such as Food Lion and Hannaford.
The company said it saw prices falling in both markets, but
added that it expected the sales performance to pick up in the
In March, U.S. peer Kroger Co reported its first
quarterly same-store sales decline in 13 years, in a sign of
intensifying competition in the U.S. grocery industry.
Sales in the Netherlands increased by 3.3 percent in the
first three months of 2017, while its Belgian stores saw a 0.6
percent drop. The group said it would refurbish 100 stores in
Belgium in 2017.
($1 = 0.9183 euros)
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip