Ahold facing criminal charges

Related tags Ahold Albert heijn

Embattled Dutch retail chain is facing a new investigation to add
to the ones currently being carried out by the US authorities. But
this probe is much closer to home, being carried out by the public
prosecutor in Amsterdam.

Ahold​, the embattled Dutch retail chain, has said it will co-operate fully with the public prosecutor as it faces a criminal investigation in its home market.

The company, which last week announced that it had uncovered accounting irregularities at its US unit Tops - in addition to those already discovered at US foodservice and Disco - had its headquarters searched on 5 July as part of the investigation.

"Ahold has given its full co-operation to this investigation and is co-operating fully with the Dutch Public Prosecutor, as it has been doing and will continue to do with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Department of Justice in connection with their ongoing investigations,"​ the company said in a statement.

Ahold declined to give any further comment on the investigation, but in a statement, the prosecutor's office said that the investigation was limited to suspicions of falsification and publication of possibly incorrect annual results, linked in particular to the consolidation of Ahold's joint ventures in Scandinavia and Latin America.

The Dutch prosecutors will also await results of ongoing investigations in the US before extending its inquiry to the possible boosting of sales figures at US Foodservice.

Meanwhile, rumours are growing that Ahold is preparing to sell its Dutch off licence chain Gall & Gall as part of its efforts to revitalise its business.

Ahold has already said it will look for buyers for its South American operations, while some units in Asia and eastern Europe may also be sold, but until now the company had not been expected to sell any of its major domestic operations.

However, Dow Jones​ reports suggest that the Gall & Gall chain is to be sold to another Dutch group, Retail Network, a unit of investment company CVC Capital Partners.

Ahold refused to comment, while Retail Network denied the claims.

Ahold has sold off some of its lesser Dutch units - notably the pharmacy chain De Tuinen and the confectionery unit Jamin - but nothing of the size of Gall & Gall. The sale of the drinks retailer could net Ahold some €85 million, the report suggests.

The company has also been streamlining management at a number of its Dutch units in a bid to cut costs. For example, the company's leading supermarket fascia, Albert Heijn, is to reduce the number of board members with the departure of merchandising and replenishment director, Jeroen Smits.

Marketing director Sander van der Laan will take over these functions.

Last week Albert Heijn's chief financial officer Joost Sliepenbeek was appointed vice president controller at Ahold, and his position will be filled by Chris Dik, currently logistics director at the chain. His job will be taken over by Johan Boeijenga, who was Ahold's country manager in Indonesia until Ahold sold recently that unit.

Some 200 jobs are expected to be shed by Albert Heijn as it restructures to combat declining sales and shrinking market share.

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