Ahold's Swedish Chain Optimistic

STOCKHOLM--As walls continued to fall in the Royal Ahold palace in the Netherlands, Ahold retailers here retain a business-as-usual attitude. Sweden's ICA Ahold AB, which is 50-percent owned by the beleaguered retail group, reported record sales and profits and said it was unaffected by the accounting scandal.

ICA Ahold is one of the assets that retail industry analysts believe Ahold may sell as it struggles to reduce its debt burden of more than 12 billion euros ($13.3 billion), according to Reuters.

"We don't think that ICA Ahold is at the top of Ahold's for-sale list, if there is one. We are the Ahold unit that generates the best return," ICA Ahold chairman Claes-Goran Sylven told Reuters on the sidelines of a news conference when asked about reports.
Britain's Tesco and French Carrefour have been mentioned among possible buyers, but Sylven said he didn't think his group was a key candidate for disposal.

ICA chief executive Kenneth Bengtsson declined to give any specific comments on speculation about ICA's future in the light of Ahold's current difficulties.

"We feel safe and secure, although Royal Ahold may be financially weak for some time to come," Bengtsson said.
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