Royal Ahold, a Netherlands-based supermarket chain, has posted a 5% growth in net sales to EUR9.71bn in the first quarter of 2012, compared to EUR9.25bn in the same quarter of previous year.

At constant exchange rates, net sales advanced 1.9% in the first quarter from the comparable quarter a year ago.

Operating income was down 6.3% to €416m in the quarter, compared to €444m in the first quarter of 2011.

Net income dropped €9m to €282m in the reporting quarter from €291m in the corresponding quarter a year earlier.

The result from discontinued operations related to past divestments was a €2m loss compared to a €7m loss last year.

In the first quarter of 2012, Ahold USA recorded a 2.8% growth in sales to $7.8bn, while Netherlands achieved a 1.2% sales growth.

Sales in Other Europe (Czech Republic and Slovakia combined) declined 3.4% in the quarter, at constant exchange rates, negatively impacted by a VAT increase in the Czech Republic.

Ahold USA identical sales were up 1.4% in the first quarter, while identical sales from Netherland operations grew 0.2% in reporting the period.

The company said online retail operations, both in the US and the Netherlands achieved strong sales growth.

Ahold chief executive officer Dick Boer said the sales growth in the first quarter reflects the timing of Easter and challenging market conditions.

"However, we saw underlying trends improving slightly as the quarter developed and are encouraged by the sales trend in the second quarter, albeit against a background of weak market conditions," Boer added.

"We continued to invest in competitiveness both in the United States and in Europe with higher levels of promotional activity, resulting in market share gains in the United States and maintaining our market share in the Netherlands.

"We will continue to invest in growth and are very pleased to have completed the acquisition of, whose capabilities will accelerate Ahold’s online growth, and look forward to completing our announced acquisitions of the Genuardi’s and C1000/Jumbo stores, which will extend our network in our two key markets."