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Ahold Delhaize Q2 profit rises 68 percent on strong Dutch sales

AMSTERDAM, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Dutch-Belgian supermarket company Ahold Delhaize on Wednesday said its second-quarter net profit rose 68 percent, on the back of strong sales growth in the Netherlands and improving results at its U.S. stores.

The company, formed in July last year by the merger of Dutch retailer Ahold with its Belgian rival Delhaize, reported net income of 355 million euros ($417.13 million). Sales rose 3.4 percent to 16 billion euros, when adjusted for the merger.

"We look toward the second half of the year with confidence and expect our underlying operating margin for the full year 2017 to be broadly in line with the first half of the year," Chief Executive Dick Boer said in a statement.

The sales and net earnings figures were ahead of market forecasts. Ahold's shares fell 2.4 percent in early trading in Amsterdam.

The merger of Ahold and Delhaize will result in 750 million euro in gross savings in 2019, the company said, with 220 million euros realized this year. The company will reinvest 250 million euros of the total savings in its own brands.

The underlying operating margin of the U.S. operations of Ahold and Delhaize improved in the second quarter to 4 and 3.8 percent respectively, helped by rising prices and slight growth in sales.

More than half the group's sales are in the United States, where it operates the Stop & Shop and Giant supermarket chains, among others.

Sales in The Netherlands rose 5.6 percent and underlying operating profit rose 4 percent. Sales in Belgium were virtually flat and operating profit fell 13.5 percent. ($1 = 0.8511 euros) (Reporting by Bart Meijer. Editing by Jane Merriman)