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ID NEWS: Only Kaiser and Lee implicated at USF; profit overstatement pegged at $880 million

Netherlands-based Royal Ahold has released conclusions of its internal investigation into accounting irregularities at its U.S. Foodservice (USF) subsidiary based in Columbia, MD: one, profits were overstated by a larger-than-anticipated $880 million (USD); two, the only two executives implicated were Mark P. Kaiser, in charge of marketing, and Timothy Lee, head of purchasing. They allegedly worked with employees at supplier companies to inflate sales in order to obtain vendor discounts booked as income. CEO Jim Miller was not implicated in any wrongdoing.

The approximately $880 million (USD) overstatements of pre-tax earnings break down as $110 million (USD) for fiscal year 2000, $260 million (USD) for fiscal 2001 and $510 million (USD) for fiscal 2002. In addition, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the forensic accountant that conducted the investigation, said that approximately $90 million (USD) of adjustments must be made to the opening balances for USF at the date of its acquisition. This consists of goodwill, primarily as a result of write-offs of vendor receivables.

As a result of these findings, corresponding adjustments to the USF balance sheet at December 28, 2002, will be necessary. These adjustments will consist of approximately $700 million (USD) of write-offs of accrued vendor receivables, an approximately $210 million (USD) increase in deferred contract revenue liabilities and an approximately $80 million (USD) increase in trade payables, as well as a $25 million (USD) increase in inventory. Any other adjustments required, including possible impairment of goodwill or other long-lived assets, will be determined by the company.

The Ahold Supervisory Board will meet shortly to "determine which actions should be taken" with respect to USF. Kaiser and Lee reportedly areexpected to be asked to resign.

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