* Agrees purchase from privately owned SPAR AG
* Supermarkets had sales of 12 bln crowns in 2013
* Ahold to pay out 2.6 bln euros to shareholders this year (Adds details on deal, cash position)
By Robert-Jan Bartunek
BRUSSELS, March 11 (Reuters) - Dutch supermarkets group Ahold agreed to buy 50 supermarkets from Austria’s SPAR AG in the Czech Republic for 5.25 billion Czech crowns ($266.3 million), under a strategy to use some of its cash pile to grow in markets near where it is already present.
The group said on Tuesday the supermarkets it will buy had net sales of 12 billion crowns in 2013 and the purchase price was based on an enterprise value which included cash and debt.
“With this deal, we will become the number two in sales in the country,” Ahold Chief Executive Dick Boer said.
The group sold its stake in Nordic grocer ICA for 2.5 billion euros in 2013 and while most of the proceeds were returned to shareholders, the group kept the door open for acquisitions near its current markets.
Ahold, which had about 4 billion euros ($5.6 billion) of cash and short-term deposits at the end of 2013, will pay out about 2.6 billion to shareholders over the course of 2014, Boer said, leaving some room for additional acquisitions.
“You can see the acquisition in the Czech Republic is only a small piece of the remaining cash position,” Boer said.
Unlisted SPAR AG, which operates in Austria, Croatia, Hungary, northern Italy and Slovenia, will remain present in the Czech Republic with a shopping centre in Prague and its sports equipment chain Hervis.
Ahold, which makes three-fifths of its revenue in the United States, already operates 284 Albert supermarkets in the Czech Republic.
The deal is still subject to regulatory clearance. ($1 = 19.7136 Czech Crowns) ($1 = 0.7205 Euros) (Editing by David Holmes)