Ahold’s 2Q11 results will be released pre-market on Thursday 25 August, followed by a conference call at 2:00pm CET. The group will face tough comparables in 2Q11 because of a calendar effect. Ahold’s 1Q11 included the 16-week period ending 24 April or Easter Sunday. It didn’t include the week after Easter when sales are typically sluggish. This calendar effect had a positive impact of respectively 100bps and 50bps on 1Q11 top line in the US and the Netherlands. The beneficial impact on 1Q11 operating margin is estimated at respectively 20bps and 10bps. The calendar effect reversed in 2Q11.
Group: We see Ahold’s net profits improving from € 202m in 2Q10 to € 221m in 2Q11 on the back of a 4.6% drop (CSS: -4.0%) in sales (+3.9% at identical exchange rates), a 30bp decline in the underlying EBIT margin (CSS: -20bp), lower net financial charges and a € 30m contribution from associates. Note that in 2Q10 there was a € 20m loss under equity accounting due to a tax provision at ICA.
US: We see sales growth (in $ ) slowing down from 7.4% in 1Q11 to 4.0% in 2Q11 due to the above mentioned calendar effect and limited contribution from external growth as the 25 Ukrop’s stores were consolidated February 2010 onwards. The acquisition of 5 New Jersey Foodtown supermarkets was finalized on 19 May 2011. We are forecasting an underlying EBIT margin of 4.3% (CSS: 4.4%) for 2Q11 implying a 50bp y/y drop.
Netherlands: We count on 2.9% sales growth (CSS: 3.4%) in the Netherlands and an underlying EBIT margin of 6.2% (-56bp)(CSS: 6.3%). Note that last year Albert Heijn’s top line benefited from the World Cup. The margin fell by 91bp to 6.02% in 1Q11 as Albert Heijn was waiting to pass on cost inflation at the start of the 2011. Management pointed out however that they stepped up inflation pass-through as the year progressed.
Equity accounting: ICA’s results were released on 17 August. Net profits (group share) reached SEK 431m in 2Q11 versus a SEK 341m loss in 2Q10. Ahold’s share (60%) in ICA’s 1Q11 results equals SEK 259m or € 29m. We’ve assumed a € 1m contribution from JMR (49% stake) to arrive at € 40m in total from associates. ICA’s sales rose by 5.3% in 2Q11 or by 7.3% at constant exchange rates thanks to higher sales at ICA Sweden and Rimi Baltic and a positive calendar effect related to the Easter holiday. REBIT was up 5.1% despite soaringlosses at ICA Norway. The Norwegian operations will be streamlined by focusing on the discount and supermarket formats while exiting the hypermarket channel.
Conclusion: Our EPS forecasts for 2011 and 2012 have been fine-tuned downwards by € 0.01 and our 2013 estimate by € 0.02. We maintain our Accumulate because the stock is trading at very attractive valuation multiples. Moreover, (8,44 EUR, -1,45%) has proven in 2008 and 2009 that the group’s margins are resilient in a recessionary environment.