Rumors of U.S. Foodservice

Over this past weekend, British news media reported that private equity and trade buyers are putting together bids for the second largest U.S. distributorship headquarted in Columbia, MD, a unit of Royal Ahold in the Netherlands.

According to the British newspaper The Business, Ahold, which is in merger talks with its smaller Belgian rival Delhaize Group is close to putting U.S. Foodservice up for sale and would decide as early as this month whether to start the disposal process which would see the business sold or floated.

A spokeswoman for Ahold declined to comment on the report.

The newspaper reported that hedge funds Paulson and Centaurus are trying to incite shareholder support for a disposal of Ahold's flagging U.S. operations, believing the Dutch multinational is worth more broken up.

Citing a source familiar with the state of affairs in Zaandam, The Business wrote that Ahold intends to initiate a retail review and update on strategy in about two weeks. Delhaize Group, which is half the size of Ahold, wants to form a merger of equals and the sale of U.S. Foodservice is crucial to achieving this, the newspaper said.

Another European source confirmed that both private equity and trade buyers have held informal talks about American distributorship, but not with the company directly.

The British newspaper also said it learned that Ahold CEO Anders Moberg, will step down in 2008, clearing the way for CFO John Rishton, to take a senior position in the combined team.


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