Food Lion parent Delhaize has ‘positive momentum,’ CEO says

SALISBURY — The new CEO of Delhaize Group, the parent of Salisbury-based Food Lion, said the company is doing well in the United States but has obstacles in Europe.

“Since the beginning of the year, we continue to have positive momentum at Delhaize America while facing challenges in Belgium and Serbia,” Frans Muller said in a news release detailing fourth quarter and year-end sales.

Delhaize Group, a Belgium-based international retailer, reported that total sales in the U.S. in the fourth quarter increased 2.6 percent to $4.3 billion, with comparable-store sales increasing by 2.8 percent.

Muller became Delhaize CEO in November 2013. Since then, he said he has “gained a thorough understanding of our group, of the different markets in which we operate and of our banners. Our group has strong foundations, with leadership positions in nearly all our markets, a solid balance sheet and passionate associates.”

In 2014, Delhaize will further support its core banners by “focusing on maintaining or strengthening our local leadership positions,” Muller said. “We will pursue operational efficiencies and exercise continued capital discipline in order to fund this.”

The company plans to increase capital expenditures and open 180 stores.

“We intend to maintain or improve sales growth and continue to generate a healthy level of free cash flow,” Muller said.

Delhaize America and Food Lion’s sister chain Bottom Dollar Food are also based in Salisbury.

Delhaize does most of its business in the U.S. as Food Lion, Hannaford and Sweetbay.

The company plans to implement changes this year at Food Lion that were tested in a pilot store in Concord.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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