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Ahold Restates 2001, 2002 Sales Numbers Issued May 16

AMSTERDAM -- Dutch retailer Royal Ahold NV late Tuesday amended part of the already revised earnings release for 2001 and 2002 it issued May 16, saying sales numbers in some areas were actually higher than reported.

In 2001, the company had sales in South America of EUR1.27 billion, according to Alold. In a press release dated May 16, Ahold said sales there were EUR917 million.

In Europe, Ahold has understated 2002 sales by EUR40 million. The company May 16 said sales were EUR3.42 billion, when they were actually EUR3.46 billion. As a result, group sales were EUR62.9 billion in 2002, unchanged from Ahold's earlier release. In 2001, group sales were EUR54.4 billion in 2001, compared with EUR54.04 billion in the company's previous report.

In Tuesday's release, Ahold offered no explanation for the discrepancies. It said the numbers issued Tuesday hadn't been approved by accountants. The previously issued 2001 and 2002 saled numbers were unaudited as well.

In response, an Ahold spokeswoman said later Wednesday that the mistakes were caused by "typing errors" when the May 16 press release was drawn up. "It wasn't that the sales numbers we actually had were incorrect," she said, " but mistakes were made in getting them into the press release."

She said she didn't know how exactly the mistakes surfaced at Ahold.
The spokeswoman said the full-year 2002 group sales figure was unchanged as there "were no typos in those bottom-line numbers in the May 16 report." Oyens & Van Eeghen analysts said the correction of Ahold's numbers are a " confirmation that accounting and internal processes are still under stress," and said the mistake was "surprising." To them, the revision is a "sign that things are still not running entirely smoothly."

A Stroeve analyst in Amsterdam said the mistake showed the company has been " sloppy," adding that the apologetic tone of the correcting press release suggests the company is under strain, since it is striving to get information to market as quickly as possible on the one hand while still struggling to get a grip on things.

Around 0813 GMT, shares were up EUR0.07, or 1.1%, at EUR6.66, as investors were encouraged by Ahold's better-than-thought earnings.
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