THE NETHERLANDS: Ahold has revealed full year sales up 3.3% to €25.7bn, with particularly strong growth in the fourth quarter of the year. The retailer, which operates 12 chains including Stop & Shop in the US and Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, said fourth quarter sales were up 12.9% year-on-year to €6.6bn. Bernstein Research analyst Christopher Hogbin said the results were “in line with consensus” and said he predicted only “limited slowdown in Dutch retail sales growth”.

MEXICO: Wal-Mart Mexico has completed the largest solar panel project in Latin America, with more than 1,000 solar panels on the roof of a Bodega Aurrera store in the province of Aguascalientes. The chain was bought by Wal-Mart in 1991 and this latest project will generate 20% of the energy used in-store.

“This is the first large-scale project to generate energy using photovoltaic panels, not only for Wal-Mart Mexico, but for Wal-Mart International,” said Raul Arguelles, senior vice president for corporate affairs at Wal-Mart Mexico. “This puts Mexico at the head of the energy field. The project reinforces our commitment to obtain all the energy the company requires from renewable sources by 2025.”

RUSSIA: X5, Russia’s largest retailer, has posted strong fourth-quarter and full-year results despite the global economic crisis. The company saw like-for-like sales rise by 15% for the past three months and by more than a fifth (22%) for the year as a whole to tighten its grip on the Russian retail market. The group’s total sales rose by more than 50% over the year to $8.3bn, buoyed by the company’s acquisition of the Karusel hypermarket chain.

“In 2008 X5 further strengthened its leadership in Russian retail, and we delivered on all our plans for the year,” said group chief executive Lev Khasis.

CHINA: Shanghai’s health authorities have started a crackdown on unhygienic trolleys and baskets at the city’s supermarkets, after finding that most are contaminated with potentially hazardous bacteria, according to reports. New cleanliness standards are set to be issued and coincide with fresh outbreaks of bird flu in parts of China.

GERMANY: Shares in German supermarket operator Metro rose 3.4% this week after it launched a cost-cutting and restructuring programme called Shape 2012. Metro said it had the potential to increase profits by €1.5bn, half from cutting costs and half from improving productivity. It will restructure its central purchasing and logistics department with the loss of some jobs, but Metro said it would avoid redundancies by not replacing staff who were leaving.

“The aim is to ensure profitable growth of the company in the long term,” said Eckhard Cordes, chairman of Metro Group. “With the new structure we are giving the sales division significantly more freedom.”