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ID NEWS: Casino expresses interest in Ahold assets

Casino Guichard Perrachon (Casino France) would consider looking at "any assets" of Royal Ahold, Zaandam, The Netherlands, in countries in which Casino is already present, according to a Dow Jones report.

Royal Ahold has been under increasing pressure in the last two weeks, in large part as a result of vendor allowance accounting problems at its U.S. Foodservice unit, and also as a result of other unrelated accounting difficulties.

Casino, too, has a presence in the U.S., as principal shareholder of Casino USA which in turn owns 56.7 percent of Smart & Final, Los Angeles. Smart & Final is the leading cash-and-carry specialist in the nation and also operates American Foodservice Distributors, Commerce, CA, the nation's 11th largest broadliner. American Foodservice, with two branches-Henry Lee in Florida and Smart & Final Foodservice in California-approaching $400 million in annual sales.

"It's a bit early to say, but if there were assets available and we were approached, we would look at them, providing they met our strict investment criteria," commented Christian Courvreux Casino France co-ceo, during a news conference.

Shortly prior, Casino France said it has EUR4 billion in unused credit lines, which could be used to meet convertible bond requirements in 2003, as well as to fund any acquisitions in the event of "significant market opportunities," Dow Jones reported.

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