Delhaize will announce its 1Q13 results tomorrow morning at 7am CET. A conference call is planned for 3pm CET. Note that on 22 April, the group unexpectedly released preliminary 1Q13 figures. Tomorrow the group will provide more details and figures below the REBIT line. We’ll focus on the performance of the repositioned Food Lion stores. In 4Q12 the repositioned stores (703) realized 2.3% comparable store sales growth with the number of items up 4.5% while prices were cut 2.1%. We anticipate that the positive volume trend continued in 1Q13. This month Food Lion will launch Phase 4 involving 180 stores in the Baltimore/Washington DC markets.
1Q13 results (released on 22 April). Group sales rose by 1.5% to € 5.5bn or by 2.1% at identical exchange rates. Comparable store sales growth and REBIT margins exceeded expectations in Belgium and the US. The group’s REBIT rose by 13% to € 214m and the margin improved by 40bps to 3.9%. REBITDA rose by 6.4% to € 369m and free cash flow improved from € 87m in 1Q12 to € 255m in 1Q13 thanks to higher REBITDA, working capital improvements (e.g. US payables) and continued capital discipline. We see EBIT rising from € 31m in 1Q12 to € 119m in 1Q13. Exceptional charges related to Sweetbay’s store closures and senior management settlement charges should amount to € 95m. We arrive at net profits of € 49m in 1Q13 compared to a € 3m loss in 1Q12 based on € 58m net financial charges and a tax rate of 20%.
USA. Comparable store sales grew by 1.9% or by 3.0% including a positive calendar effect and the REBIT margin improved from 3.7% in 1Q12 to 4.2% in 1Q13 thanks to positive sales leverage supported by the favourable calendar effect, the closure of non-performing stores, cost savings and a sharp improvement in Bottom Dollar Food’s results.
Belgium. Comparable store sales rose by 2.4% (+0.6% including a -1.8% calendar effect related to the number of trading days) thanks to inflation and improved volume trends. Higher prices contributed 2.1% to sales growth. Sales were also helped by the early timing of Easter. REBIT margin improved from 4.6% in 1Q12 to 5.1% in 1Q13 thanks to cost control and positive sales leverage. There was also a positive SG&A effect.
Outlook. We should not extrapolate the positive profit surprise of 1Q13 to the remainder of the year. The 1Q13 results were positively impacted by cold weather in the US, easy comparables at Bottom Dollar, the timing of Easter and a one-off SG&A benefit in Belgium.For FY13 management aims at an underlying operating profit of € 775m or a 4% decline at identical exchange rates. The guidance implies a 9% decline over the remainder of the year. Several initiatives will dampen margins: Hannaford launches a new price investment campaign in 2Q13, while Food Lion’s margins will be dampened by Phase 4 (May 2013) and Phase 5 (4Q13) of its repositioning program. Bottom Dollar aims to open 10-15 new stores in existing markets in 4Q13, which will lead to higher marketing and store opening costs.