Ahold’s share buyback program is being increased from € 500m to € 2bn to be concluded by the end of 2014. At the end of May 2013, € 122m had already been realized. We are somewhat disappointed about the size of the buyback program because the group is sitting on a non-productive cash pile of € 4.2bn. A € 2bn buyback program does not remove the risk of a sizeable and risky acquisition.
The 1Q13 results were broadly in line with expectations. (12,71 EUR, 1,19%) continues to gain market share in the major markets but management remains cautious about the outlook for 2013. Group sales came out 0.6% below consensus but the REBIT margin is exactly in line. EBIT came out below estimates but this was due to one-offs including a € 63m pension settlement. We’ll revise our EPS forecasts upwards to reflect the share buyback. It should have a positive impact of about 10% on EPS. We increase our target price from € 13.5 to € 14.0 and maintain our Accumulate rating.
Group: Net profits from continuing operations fell by 19% to € 208m (KBCS € 266m and CSS € 264m). ICA’s contribution to net profits was included under discontinued operations. Group sales rose by 4.1% (KBCS 5.1% and CSS 4.7%) to € 10,117m. The underlying operating margin fell from 4.3% in 1Q12 to 4.1% (KBCS 4.2%, CSS 4.1%) in 1Q13. At identical exchange rates REBIT increased by 0.4%. EBIT fell from € 413m to € 345m (CSS € 415m and KBCS € 425m). One-offs totalled € 71m including € 63m related to a multi-employer pension plan settlement in the US. Net financial charges rose by € 65m to € 95m and the tax rate fell from 27.9% to 17.6%. The contribution from associates reached € 1,743m including the € 1.6bn gain on the disposal of Ahold’s stake in ICA.
US (60% of total sales):
Identical store sales growth (excluding fuel) accelerated from 1.4% in 4Q12 to 1.9% (KBCS 2.0%, CSS 1.6%) in 1Q13. Reported sales rose by 3.4% to $ 8,068m. The underlying operating margin fell from 4.2% in 1Q12 to 4.1% (KBCS 4.1%, CSS 4.0%) in 1Q13. The high level of promotional activity persists.
Netherlands (35% of total sales):
Identical store sales growth (excluding fuel) accelerated from 0.2% in4Q12 to 1.8% (KBCS 1.7%, CSS 1.8%) in 1Q13. Reported sales rose by 7.5% to € 3,506m. The underlying operating margin fell from 6.0% (5.7% restated) in 1Q12 to 5.3% (in line with KBCS & CSS) in 1Q13. The decline in margin reflects the revised pension accounting rules and decreased discount rates. Consumer confidence remains low.
Central Europe (5% of total sales):
Identical store sales growth (including fuel) reached to -2.8% (KBCS -2.5%, CSS -1.2%) in 1Q13. Reported sales fell by 5.1% to € 482m (KBCS € 490m and CSS € 499m). The underlying operating margin improved from 0.8% in 1Q12 to 1.0% (KBCS 1.0% and CSS 0.8%) in 1Q13.