October 11, 2007 / 3:25 PM / 13 years ago

Ahold to sell its U.S. Tops Markets

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch supermarket group Ahold AHLN.ASAHO.N said on Thursday it had reached an agreement on the sale of its Tops Markets chain to Morgan Stanley Private Equity in a transaction valued at $310 million.

The divestment of Tops is part of Ahold’s strategic review announced in November 2006, Ahold said in a statement.

Ahold said it expected to close the deal this quarter, with the final purchase price subject to customary price adjustments.

Tops, which operates stores in western New York, mid-state New York and northwestern Pennsylvania, was put up for sale after pressure from hedge funds Centaurus Capital and Paulson & Co, which also resulted in the sale of its U.S. Foodservice unit.

Ahold concluded the sale of U.S. Foodservice in July for $7.1 billion.

Ahold owns Albert Heijn, the Netherlands’ biggest supermarket chain, but derives 60 percent of its sales in the United States.

Last year Ahold started a two-year revamp of its supermarkets in the United States, which includes price cuts, more private label goods and a greater variety of products.

Ahold targets a 2007 retail operating margin for the group of 4-4.5 percent.

Ahold said in August higher oil prices and food inflation in the United States would have an impact “to some extent” on its business.

Ahold shares were up 0.4 percent at 10.89 euros by 11:06 a.m. EDT.

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