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Ahold First-Quarter Profit Falls 2%

Dutch retailer Ahold posted a 2% drop in first-quarter net profit on Thursday, hurt by the ongoing overhaul of its U.S. supermarkets, but said it was on track for a recovery.

Net profit fell to 241 million euros ($326 million) from 246 million euros a year earlier, but came above an average forecast of 229 million euros in a Reuters poll of 17 analysts.

Operating income fell to 421 million euros from 424 million a year earlier, the world's fourth-biggest food retail and foodservice group by sales said. Ahold makes about two-thirds of its sales in the United States.

"The first quarter showed an encouraging start to the year," Chief Executive Anders Moberg said in a statement.

Ahold is overhauling its Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover stores with lower prices, more private-label goods and a greater variety of products, hoping to duplicate the success of its Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn.

Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover posted a 27.6% fall in operating income to 173 million euros ($228 million). Giant-Carlisle had 43 million euros ($56 million) in operating income, down 2.4%.

Dutch market leader Albert Heijn beat forecasts with a 47% rise in operating income to 150 million euros.

Catering supply unit U.S. Foodservice, which Ahold has agreed to sell to private equity firms Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts for $7.1 billion, had 79 million euros in operating income, an 18% rise.

Ahold shares ended at 9.07 euros on Wednesday and are up about 12% since the start of the year, buoyed by merger talk with Belgian rival Delhaize, asset disposal and a further break-up of the group.

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