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Report: Ahold Will Consider Takeovers in 2006

AMSTERDAM - Dutch retailer Ahold will reportedly begin looking at takeovers again in 2006, the retailer's c.f.o. was quoted as saying, Reuters reports.

Although no concrete plans have been discussed, Hannu Ryopponen, Ahold's c.f.o., told Dutch daily Het Financieele Dagblad: "At around that time we will be ready to write a check for two to three billion euros. I would rather not invest a lot, but would be prepared to do so for a good acquisition."

Ahold, which has been struggling to recover after admitting to overstating earnings by more than U.S. $1 billion in 2000-2002, will reportedly eye takeovers in Europe in an effort to lessen an imbalance of its income structure, which currently generates 72 percent of sales in the United States, according to the newspaper report.

Acknowledging that the company's first priority this year and next was recovering from the accounting scandal, Ryopponen was quoted as saying: "It would be idiotic to go on the takeover path while the ship is still leaking. You cannot do too much that is new. First, we must be rid of the credit agencies' junk bond status. Then we will be ready for growth."

Noting that the company's U.S. focus will continue to be directed to strengthening its Stop & Shop and Carlisle, Pa.-based Giant Food Stores unit, Ryopponen said Stop & Shop's sales could double in 10 years through new store openings and small acquisitions.

Last week Ahold received a "serious warning" from Euronext, a European stock exchange, which officially reprimanded the global food retailer for breaking market rules by delaying the disclosure of accounting problems that had it near bankruptcy last year.
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