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Ahold - Balanced approach to efficient balance sheet

Ahold - Balanced approach to efficient balance sheet

26.9.2013 9:18

Our EPS forecasts for 2013-2015 have been lowered by 3-5%. We adjusted our $ /€ assumptions to reflect the weaker $ and lowered our net profit estimates for JMR.

The group was sitting on a non-productive gross cash position of € 3.8bn on 14 July. Management remains committed to an efficient capital structure with about € 1bn in gross cash and a net lease adjusted debt/REBITDAR multiple of 2.0x. They will present a clear plan before the end of this year as to how they intend to move towards those targets. Ahold is aiming to achieve a balance between investment in growth and returns to shareholders. Based on the targets and our assumptions for 2H13 and FY14, we estimate that in addition to the current € 2bn share buyback program, the group has about € 1.5-2.0bn to spend on acquisition(s) and/or an additional cash return over the next 18 months. The stock appears to be fully valued based on the P/E for 2013. The P/E for 2015 (11x) is more relevant because it fully reflects the current € 2bn share buyback program. Further use of the cash pile beyond the € 2bn share buy-back program that has already been announced should have an additional accretive EPS impact. We stick to our BUY rating.

Changing competitive landscape in the Netherlands:
The Dutch food retail market has changed significantly since we started covering Ahold in 2007. At that time, C1000 and Super de Boer occupied the 2nd and 3rd positions after Albert Heijn, with market shares of respectively 14% and 7%. Jumbo, a relatively small player at that time, acquired both C1000 and Super de Boer. Sales (including VAT) under the Jumbo banner rose by 18% to € 2.0bn in 1H13. Organic sales growth reached 2.1%. Including the C1000 stores that still need to be converted, Jumbo’s sales reached € 3.8bn and its market share 20.7% of which 11.6% from Jumbo and 9.1% from C1000. Lidl’s market share rose from 7.5% a year ago to 8.6% at the end of 1H13 (source: Distrifood and Nielsen). C1000 is known for its aggressive promotions, while Jumbo tends to adopt an EDLP (every day low price) strategy with few promotions. Some of C1000’s former customers are switching to Lidl because of its attractive prices and fresh product offering. It’s worth noting also that Aldi’s market share has declined from 7.7% to 7.3% over the last 12 months.In GfK’s latest consumer survey, Albert Heijn supermarkets slipped from number 6 to number 7 in the rankings. The large Albert Heijn XL stores maintain their number 1 spot, Jumbo’s ranking drops from 3rd to 4th, while Lidl maintains its 8th position.

USA: volumes still under pressure:
In 2Q13 identical store sales excluding fuel increased by 0.3% while net average price increased by slightly less than 1%, implying a volume decline. Consumer surveys show that Ahold US needs to improve price perception in order to remain competitive. Ahold US is relatively price competitive in dry grocery but there is scope to improve price perception in fresh food. Ahold’s fresh food range is focused on quality. They are now introducing more Guaranteed Value products in thefresh product range in order to lower the entry point.

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