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ID NEWS: Ahold rumored to seek divestiture of USF; who's a potential buyer?

Royal Ahold, Zaandam, The Netherlands, says it wants to sell "all or part of" U.S. Foodservice, Columbia, MD, according to a report in the Financial Times. Reuters in turn has reported that Ahold declines to comment on the report, saying it amounts to "rumors and speculation."

Citing "people familiar with the situation," the Financial Times said that Dudley Eustace, Ahold's interim cfo, and other executives want to sell USF to help reduce $14 billion in debt and regain credibility with investors. Eustace is said to have received "expressions of interest" in a range of assets from private equity and venture capital groups and has "made it clear" Ahold wants to sell the $17.5-billion broadliner.

However, the price tag for USF would likely be "much smaller" than the $3.6 billion Ahold paid for the distributor in early 2000.

One industry pundit suggests he has heard in several places that Sara Lee may want to get involved again, "and-or-with" some ex-PYA/Monarch people.

Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Justice Department investigations of $880 million in accounting irregularities at USF continue and reportedly have widened to include a number of suppliers.

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