ZAANDAM, Netherlands -- Royal Ahold here said a lower dollar exchange rate resulted in slightly lower sales for the first quarter ended April 23. Sales for the 16-week quarter fell 0.3% to $5.21 billion U.S. (8.5 billion Dutch guilders). Excluding the effect of the lower exchange rate -- 1.64 guilders to the dollar, compared with 1.93 guilders to the dollar a year ago -- overall sales would have shown an increase of 7.9%, the company said. Net income for the quarter rose 8.5% to $72.9 million. Ahold's U.S. sales rose 13.9% to $2.4 billion. Excluding 55 Red Food Stores, Chattanooga, Tenn., which were acquired during last year's second quarter, sales in the United States rose 6%, the company said. Claire Kent, a securities analyst with the London office of Morgan Stanley, New York, said three of Ahold's U.S. divisions showed strong same-store sales gains -- Giant Food Stores, Carlisle, Pa., up 5.1%; Edwards Super Food Stores, Windsor Locks, Conn., up 6.7%, and Finast, Maple Heights, Ohio, up 3.4%. While the company said sales growth at Tops Markets, Buffalo, N.Y., was "limited" and sales at Bi-Lo, Mauldin, S.C., "increased further" in both the Carolinas and Tennessee (where Red Food stores were converted to the Bi-Lo name), Kent said comparable-store sales were down 1.1% at Bi-Lo and 2.9% at Tops. Operating earnings in the United States rose 11.7% to $56.4 million, with strong results at Bi-Lo, Giant, Finast and Edwards, the company said.