Ahold third-quarter sales, earnings beat consensus; raises 2020 forecast

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a bag with the logo of Albert Heijn, operated by Ahold Delhaize, the Dutch-Belgian supermarket operator, in Eindhoven, Netherlands, January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Ahold Delhaize NV AD.AS, a major operator of supermarket chains in the United States and Europe, reported on Wednesday better-than-expected sales and underlying earnings for the third quarter, with a surge in online orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sales were up 10.1% to 17.8 billion euros ($20.7 billion), with underlying operating income of 813 million euros, up 15.9%, the company said.

Analysts in a company-compiled consensus had expected core profit of 767 million euros on sales of 17.5 billion euros.

“Our results reflected our ability to leverage our leading local digital and omni-channel platform, which generated nearly 115% net consumer online sales growth in the U.S. and nearly 50% growth in Europe in the quarter, at constant exchanges rates,” CEO Frans Muller said in a statement.

Ahold raised its outlook for growth in annual earnings per share to the “high 20% range”. In July, it had said per-share earnings growth would be slightly above 20%.

The company said it would keep dividend payout ratio at 40-50% and announced a 1 billion euro share buy-back for 2021, which it said was “a testament to the strength we continue to see in our business models.”

Shares closed at 24.62 euros on Tuesday.($1 = 0.8587 euros)

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Keith Weir