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The heart of Ahold's empire. (News/Retailer Of The Year).

ZAANDAM, the Netherlands -- Although its holdings in the United States may claim the limelight because of their contributions to sales and profits, Royal Ahold NV remains a European company and its European operations are very much at the heart of its network.

To begin with, its European businesses are vast. Ahold operates over 6,600 stores and distribution facilities in 12 countries, ranging from Sweden and Norway in the north to Spain and Portugal in the south; from the Netherlands to the Baltic countries and into the central European nations of Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

All told the company's European operations have annual sales approaching 17 billion euros ($15.3 billion).

Ahold's largest single operation in Europe is ICA Ahold AB, its 50/50 joint venture with the Swedish food retailer ICA/Hakon Group.

The joint venture covers both the wholesale and retail sides of the food business, serving close to 3,200 company-owned and independent supermarkets and discount units in Sweden, Norway, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

In the Netherlands Ahold's flagship Albert Heijn supermarket chain is the leading food retailer in the country with some 680 stores. The chain's excellent information technology and logistics systems, moreover, provide standards for emulation by Ahold's other holdings.

The 500-odd stores of its Etos chain give Ahold a solid footing in the health and beauty care market. In addition, the retailer fields about 486 wine and liquor specialty outlets under the Gall & Gall banner.

In Poland Ahold operates 154 hypermarkets, supermarkets and discount stores, while in the Czech Republic it fields 192 hypermarkets, minihypermarkets and supermarkets.

Meanwhile in southern Europe, Ahold has used acquisitions to make itself one of the region's largest food retailers in recent years.

Its takeover of Spain's Superdiplo and Kampio chains in 2000 brought its store count in that nation up to nearly 600 stores and made the company a force in most of the country, including the Canary Islands, southern Spain, Andalucia, the Madrid area and the province of Catalonia.

In Portugal Ahold and its partner of nine years, Jeronimo Martins, are the co-owners of 210 stores operating under the Pingo Doce and Feira Nova banners.

Beyond its retail operations in the Netherlands, Ahold has a 73% stake in Schuitema, a wholesale distributor that services 551 corporate and independent affiliated supermarkets.

It also runs the food service operation Deli XL, providing a variety of food and nonfood products to hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and corporate canteens across the continent.

During the most recent reporting period--the third quarter of 2001--Ahold disclosed that sales at all of its European operations increased.

Overall sales during the period went up 15.7% to 5.2 billion euros, fueled primarily by the acquisition of Superdiplo in late 2000.

Operating earnings on the Continent increased 15.2% in the quarter to 186.8 million euros. A spokesman says that the only country where Ahold suffered lower operating earnings in the quarter than for the corresponding period in 2000 was Portugal, where margins decreased and expenses increased.

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Title Annotation:overview of Royal Ahold N.V.'s European operations
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Jan 14, 2002
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