Feb. 17, 2021, 2:31 a.m. EST

Ahold Delhaize swings to loss on higher costs

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By Matteo Castia

--Ahold Delhaize posted a fourth-quarter net loss of EUR9 million

--EUR210 million hit booked in the quarter from the coronavirus pandemic

--The grocer swung to loss mainly due to U.S.-related exceptional costs of EUR841 million

Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV reported Wednesday a swing to net loss for the fourth quarter of 2020 on higher costs associated with its U.S business.

The Dutch grocer posted a net loss of 9 million euros ($10.9 million) for the quarter, compared with a profit of EUR544 million in the year-earlier period. Ahold Delhaize said the decline in profitability was due primarily to previously announced provisions for U.S. multi-employer pension plan withdrawal and settlement agreements, which amounted to EUR841 million.

Coronavirus-related costs amounted to EUR210 million in the fourth quarter and EUR680 million in the whole of 2020, it added.

Analysts had forecast the company to make a quarterly net profit of EUR298 million.

Net sales for the quarter rose to EUR19.60 billion from EUR17.38 billion the prior year. In the U.S., net sales jumped 19% on the year to EUR11.43 billion. Analysts had forecast group net sales to stand at EUR18.59 billion.

The board declared a yearly dividend of 90 European cents, up from 76 European cents a year earlier.

Full-year underlying operating profit and revenue came in at EUR3.59 billion and EUR74.74 billion, respectively.

The company said it remains committed to its EUR1 billion share buyback program, but that the initiative will continue to remain subject to macroeconomic developments and changes in corporate activities such as large acquisitions.

Ahold Delhaize added it expects continued significant uncertainty this year due to the pandemic.

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