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Grocery retailer Ahold Delhaize sees Europe’s food inflation slowing

(Reuters) -Supermarket group Ahold Delhaize expects food inflation in Europe to slow in the second half of this year, CEO Frans Muller said on Wednesday after the retailer beat expectations for its first quarter thanks to strong U.S. sales.

Muller said he saw food inflation slowing in the second half, with prices for sunflower oil and eggs likely to fall back slightly.

Ahold, which operates Stop & Shop, Giant, Food Lion and Hannaford in the U.S. and Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, posted quarterly sales of 21.62 billion euros ($23.80 billion) to beat a 21.5 billion euro consensus from analyst forecasts compiled by the company.

The retailer, which makes more than half its revenues in the U.S., saw its underlying operating margin rise to 4.8% in the U.S. while in Europe it fell to 2.8%, hit by higher energy costs and a strike at Delhaize Belgium. Ahold also has supermarkets in Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Romania, and Serbia, as well as Indonesia.

Online sales in the U.S. jumped by 11.9% compared to a year ago, helping overall online sales grow by 5.9%. Ahold said its loyalty programs were helping to draw shoppers with personalised discounts.

Quarterly operating income was 822 million euros, in line with expectations of 823 million euros.

($1 = 0.9084 euros)

(Reporting by Helen ReidEditing by David Goodman, Elaine Hardcastle)


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