By Ian Walker
Belgian food retailer Delhaize Group (>> DELHAIZE GROUP) reported Wednesday a near four-fold rise in first-quarter net profit after booking lower finance costs, and said it intends to increase its revenue and market share while continuing to generate a solid level of free cash flow.
The company said its focus this year is to complete its $29 billion merger with Dutch peer Koninklijke Ahold N.V. (>> KONINKLIJKE AHOLD) on schedule.
For the quarter ended March 31, Delhaize's net profit totaled 109 million euros ($123 million), compared with EUR28 million a year earlier. Revenue rose to EUR6.15 billion from EUR5.82 billion.
Delhaize and Ahold said last June they planned to merge in an all-share deal that would create one of the largest supermarket operators in the U.S. The move comes as grocers seek to increase scale in the face of slow growth and fierce competition from discounters.
The combined company will make around two-thirds of its sales on the U.S. East Coast, where Ahold operates the Giant and Stop & Shop chains, and Delhaize owns Food Lion and Hannaford.
The new company will be named Ahold Delhaize and will be based in the Netherlands.
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