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No Fines for Ahold as It Settles with SEC

WASHINGTON, DC - Royal Ahold NV, the Dutch retailer that overstated more than $1 billion of profits, reached a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, closing off a 20-month investigation into accounting fraud, reported Bloomberg News.

Ahold, based in Zaandam, the Netherlands, won't pay any fines due to its cooperation with the SEC, according to its press release today. Former ceo Cees van der Hoeven and former cfo Michiel Meurs, expelled in February 2003, also settled with the Commission and are barred from serving on the boards of public companies.

Ahold admitted on Feb. 24, 2003, that it overstated three years of earnings, causing its stock to drop 65% in a day. Ahold cited irregularities at its Columbia, MD-based U.S. Foodservice company, prompting an investigation by regulators and a class-action lawsuit. Van der Hoeven's successor, Anders Moberg, reversed the stock's drop by releasing $19 billion of acquisitions to pay off debt.

"This is perfect news," Oscar Poos, an analyst at Fortis Bank in Amsterdam, was quoted as saying. "This makes it more difficult for people bringing the class-action suit against them. This is clearly good news and clearly a trigger'' for the company's stock. Poos has a "buy" rating on the shares.

Shares of Ahold rose 13 cents, or 2.4%, to 5.52 euros in Amsterdam. The stock has gained 88% since the day after the company disclosed it overstated profits.

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