(12,76 EUR, 4,42%) reported solid 2Q13 results. Group sales came in about 1% below expectations but REBIT exceeded consensus (CSS) by 5%. REBIT improved by 5.4% at constant exchange rates and the margin improved by 20bps despite higher pension costs in the Netherlands. The group continues to witness high levels of promotional activity. Identical sales growth was weaker than expected in the US due to the low level of inflation and sluggish volumes. continues to gain market share however in the US. The US REBIT margin is in linewith CSS. The main positive surprise came from the Netherlands with REBIT exceeding expectations by 6.5% thanks to Albert Heijn’s strong performance. Management remains cautious in the outlook for the balance of the year. The company remains on track to realize the cost savings program. They remain committed to an efficient capital structure and expect to make further announcements before the end of this year. We’ll fine-tune our estimates after the conference call (2:00 pm CET). We raise our rating from ACCUMULATE to BUY and stick to our target price of € 14.
USA: Identical store sales were up 0.3% (CSS & KBCS 1.0%) excluding gasoline. Sales rose by 2.0% to $ 6,135m (CSS $ 6,187m and KBCS $ 6,162m). Sales growth was modest due to the low level of inflation. Volumes remain under pressure. Ahold’s US operations continued to gain market share. The REBIT margin fell from 4.4% to 4.2% (in line with CSS; KBCS 4.0%). Improved operational store efficiencies and better sourcing were offset by higher health and welfare costs and investments in the further simplification of the operations.
Netherlands: Identical sales growth landed at 1.6% (KBCS & CSS 1.5%) and sales rose by 5.6% to € 2,703m (0.1% above CSS; 2.1% above KBCS). Sales were positively impacted by the inclusion of 22 former C1000/Jumbo stores and further expansion in Belgium where the store count reaches 16. Identical sales growth was driven by Albert Heijn, which achieved a higher average basket value and by double-digit growth at albert.nl and bol.com. Albert Heijn continued to gain market share. REBIT margin improved from 5.1% to 5.5% (KBCS 5.2%, CSS 5.1%) despite increased pension costs.
Czech Republic and Slovakia: Identical sales including gasoline decreased by 3.0% (KBCS -3.0%, CSS -1.8%). Reported sales fell by 4.7% to € 367m (KBCS € 370m and CSS € 374m) or by 3.4% at identical exchange rates. The REBIT margin fell by 20bps to 0.8% (KBCS 1.0%, CSS 1.1%). In the Czech Republic, the retail market remained challenging in part due to VAT increases. was able to maintain its market share in the Czech Republic and improve operating margins.
Group: Sales rose by 1.0% to € 7,769m (1.1% below KBCS and 0.6% below CSS) or by 3.0% at constant exchange rates. The REBIT rose by 4.0% to € 338m (KBCS € 318m and CSS 322m). The margin improved by 20bps to 4.4% (KBCS and CSS 4.1%). Free cash flow remained almost stable at € 254m in 2Q13 and the net cash position fell from € 1.2bn to € 0.8bn due to dividend payments (€ 457m) and the share buy back (€ 186m).