BRUSSELS — Gains in customer traffic at Food Lion and Hannaford Bros. helped drive sales growth of 5.4% at Delhaize’s U.S. operations in the third quarter, the company said yesterday. Sales at Sweetbay Supermarkets have improved markedly since rolling out aggressive price cuts, but the chain is still not profitable, Pierre-Olivier Beckers, chief executive officer, Delhaize, said in a conference call with investors. Comparable-store sales for all of the U.S. were up 4.6% for the period, and the company raised its comp-store guidance for the year to between 3.5% and 4%, up from a previous range of 2.5% to 3.5%. U.S. operating profit rose 2.5% in the third quarter, to $261.7 million, on sales of $4.65 billion. Among the initiatives the company discussed in the conference call were plans to roll out a new companywide private-label program for chilled, prepared meals called On the Go Bistro. The company said one of its Belgian vendors was currently establishing a facility near Philadelphia to work exclusively with Delhaize on the project. The weakened U.S. dollar hurt Delhaize’s results for the third quarter: Net income from continuing operations at actual exchange rates fell 2.1%, to $156.5 million, while revenues slid 1.3%, to $7 billion. At identical rates, net income from continuing operations rose 4.6% on a 4.2% gain in revenues.
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