Belgian retailer Delhaize said full-year group sales fell 3.3% to 20.7bn but that actions taken in the fourth quarter to stem losses at its US operations Food Lion and Kash n’ Karry had been successful.

President and CEO Pierre-Olivier Beckers said Delhaize had closed 41 of its budget Food Lion stores Stateside and pledged a further $100m of cost cutting this year. Sales at its up-market chain Hannaford’s did well.

Sales at Delhaize Belgium rose by 6.5% with 32 stores added during 2002 with comparable store sales growth of 3.7%. Delhaize added emphasis on the continued renewal of its store concept had led to an increase in the average sales basket.

The group which issued several profit warnings last year added it had reduced net debt by 878m euros to 3.9bn euros at the end of 2002.