AMSTERDAM, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Dutch supermarket group Ahold raised its forecast for free cash flow to 1.6 billion euros ($1.72 billion) in 2017 from an estimated 1.3 billion euros this year, as its July merger with Belgium’s Delhaize bears fruit.
Ahead of a meeting with investors in London, Ahold-Delhaize said it would launch a 1 billion euro stock buyback program in 2017 and hopes to double online sales to 4.6 billion euros by 2020.
It repeated its target of 500 million euros in cost savings, purchasing savings, and other improvements due to the merger by mid-2019.
The combined company is one of the largest retailers in the eastern United States, where it operates the Stop & Shop, Giant, Food Lion and Hannaford supermarket chains, and is the leading operator in the Netherlands and Belgium. ($1 = 0.9329 euros) (Reporting by Toby Sterling, editing by Louise Heavens)