May 9, 2018 / 7:59 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Ahold Delhaize Q1 sales increase as U.S. operations improve

(Adds CEO quotes, detail on U.S. and online market)

AMSTERDAM, May 9 (Reuters) - Dutch-Belgian supermarket chain Ahold Delhaize reported higher first-quarter profit and sales on Wednesday citing improved U.S. operations and online sales.

Net income rose 15 percent to 407 million euros on comparable sales up 2.5 percent to 14.9 billion euros, slightly beating analyst forecasts.

Analysts polled by the company predicted net profit of 384 million euros on sales of 14.8 billion.

Ahold generates almost two thirds of its business in the United States where it operates the Food Lion, Stop & Shop and Giant chains and the Peapod online grocery delivery business.

Net sales in the U.S. market increased 2 percent, excluding negative currency effects, as the company continued to face tough competition from discounters, while Peapod must compete with Amazon after its acquisition of Whole Foods.

“The U.S. market is changing quickly, with the entrance of e-commerce in the food market,” Boer told reporters. “But we are well positioned to compete.”

Amazon is seen as a large threat to traditional supermarket companies in the United States, as the U.S. market for online groceries is still small compared to Europe.

Online sales only represented 2 percent of Ahold Delhaize’s total U.S. sales versus 12 percent in the Dutch market, for example, where they increased by almost a quarter in the first quarter.

Ahold Delhaize said it remained on track to have nearly 5 billion euros in online sales by 2020.

$1 = 0.8449 euros Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath

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