BRUSSELS -- The chief executive officer of Delhaize Group here said the recent increase in merger and acquisition activity in the U.S. supermarket industry could benefit Delhaize America as more acquisition opportunities arise and the remaining players stabilize. “It is an opportunity to focus on a few acquisitions that make sense for us,” said Pierre-Olivier Beckers in a conference call yesterday discussing the company‘s year-end results. “Also, as the market concentrates, stronger retailers tend to have a more rational strategy, and this creates a more stable environment in the future.” In the U.S., Delhaize reported fourth-quarter operating profit gains of 1.7%, to $264.7 million, on sales of $4.37 billion, up 3.8%. Comparable-store sales for the period rose 2.2%. For the full year, the company posted operating profit gains of 6.6%, to $961 million in the U.S. An aggressive focus on price positioning helped drive comparable-store sales gains of 2.7% and overall sales growth of 4.4%, to $17.3 billion. The company projected comps in the range of 2.5%-3.5% for the U.S. in 2007 Beckers also said the company has seen some “good early results” from a more aggressive price positioning at Sweetbay, the chain in Florida that it is converting from the Kash ‘n Karry banner. The last 30 stores will be converted this year.
-- Mark Hamstra