Ahold to publish results this week

Related tags Ahold Czech republic Hypermarket

Ahold is to publish its audited results for 2002 on Thursday -
restated following the revelation of accounting fraud earlier in
the year. The figures are unlikely to make encouraging reading, and
shareholders and investors alike will be keen to hear what the
company's new management has planned for the future.

Now that the decision over who will be allowed to buy Safeway has been made, the most eagerly awaited date in the retail calendar is undoubtedly the publication of Ahold's 2002 results.

While such publications are usually considered run-of-the-mill, Ahold's case is exceptional because this will in fact be the second time that the company has issued its full-year figures for 2002. The difference this time around is that the results should take into account the full extent of the accounting fraud unearthed at a number of the company's operating divisions.

The deadline for the company to submit its accounts for 2002 to its creditor banks is set at midnight tonight (30 September), but Ahold has negotiated a delay of one day, allowing it to publish the accounts on 1 October. The figures will be released to the public on Thursday (2 October), along with restated accounts for 2001 and 2000.

Delivery of the 2002 results was a condition of Ahold's €2.65 billion credit facility negotiated in March 2003. A €678 million convertible bond will be repayed in full today, as scheduled, the company said.

The company issued its first set of 2002 results in January this year - before the accounting fraud revelations - and reported sales growth of 9.2 per cent to €72.7 billion but badly impacted by the effect of currency devaluations in Latin America and by a disappointing performance from the US Foodservice business - subsequently found to be the chief offender when it came to falsifying accounts.

But if the original figures were far from exemplary, the restated results out later this week are likely to make even less encouraging reading for Ahold's shareholders.

Meanwhile, the restructuring of Ahold's business continues, with press reports in Brazil suggesting that three big hitters have come forward to bid for the Dutch group's operations there.

French giant Carrefour, US-based group Wal-Mart and local market leader Companhia Brasileira de Distribuicao (CBD) are all reported to have submitted bids for Ahold's Brazilian assets, which include the Bompreco and G. Barbosa chains.

Bompreco is the biggest attraction for the bidders, with more than 100 stores and sales in excess of 3.34 billion reais (€979m) last year.

Ahold has already completed the sale of its operations in Chile and Paraguay, and hopes to conclude the sale of businesses in Argentina and Peru by the end of the year.

The company's strategy for the future still remains unclear, although it is possible that the management will shed some more light on the proposals at the shareholders conference coinciding with the publication of the results later this week.

Speculation has centred around Ahold's operations in eastern Europe - the only emerging market operations not slated for sale, presumably because most of the countries where Ahold operates will join the EU next year and cease to be 'emerging' - and there would certainly be no shortage of bidders should the group's operations in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic be put up for sale.

The company has today announced the sale of two shopping centres in the Czech Republic, but this is not necessarily indicative of its likely strategy for the country as a whole - Ahold​ will continue to operate a Hypernova hypermarket in the shopping centres.

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