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Delhaize Posts Healthy Profit in '04

BRUSSELS -- Delhaize Group here yesterday said it net profits posted a healthy rise in 2004, on organic sales growth of 2.8 percent in Belgium and the U.S.

The retailer also said it is buying Belgian supermarket chain Cash Fresh, to beef up its operations there. Delhaize's store count in Belgium will now be 820.

Delhaize said 2004 group net profit rose to 211.5 million euros (US $283.9 million) from 171.3 million euros ($229.9 million) in 2003.

"Operating profit rose to 819.7 million euros ($1.10 billion) from 809.2 million euros ($1.08 billion) last year. Delhaize Group realized an excellent performance in 2004," said Pierre-Olivier Beckers, president and Chief c.e.o. "We further reinforced our positions through store remodeling, store openings, and targeted fill-in acquisitions. Strong sales momentum in our key markets and good margin management enabled us to increase profits significantly and exceed our expectations. At identical exchange rates on a comparable calendar, earnings before goodwill and exceptionals increased in 2004 by 20.5 percent. This was significantly better than our expectations at the beginning of the year and above the target we discussed when we reported the third quarter results."

Beckers continued: "In 2005, Delhaize Group will remain dedicated to reinforcing its operations by further increasing the differentiation of its store concepts and focusing on executional excellence. We are also pleased with the acquisition of Cash Fresh in Belgium. Cash Fresh represents an excellent geographic fit with our Belgian business and reinforces our position in our historic home market."

The company said it foresees full year 2005 sales up 4 percent to 5 percent at constant currencies. Delhaize also foresees like-for-like U.S. sales up 1 percent to 1.5 percent in the year.

The group reiterated that its U.S. operations would receive most of its estimated 600 million euro capital expenditures this year.
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