AHOLD SEEKS TO RECLAIM BONUSES FROM DIRECTORS

ZAANDAM, Netherlands -- Ahold here said last week it would seek to reclaim a portion of past bonuses paid to board members when the company was overstating its profits, according to reports.Separately, reports indicated that Cees van der Hoeven and Michael Meurs, the former chief executive officer and chief financial officer, respectively, have agreed to repay portions of their bonuses. Ahold could

ZAANDAM, Netherlands -- Ahold here said last week it would seek to reclaim a portion of past bonuses paid to board members when the company was overstating its profits, according to reports.

Separately, reports indicated that Cees van der Hoeven and Michael Meurs, the former chief executive officer and chief financial officer, respectively, have agreed to repay portions of their bonuses. Ahold could not be reached for comment.

Among the current board members who were on the board during the period in question are Jan Andrea, Theo de Raad and Bill Grize, the current CEO of Ahold's U.S. Retail division. Robert Tobin, a former CEO of Ahold's U.S. Retail division and a current member of the supervisory board, also served on the board during part of the period in question.

Ahold also issued a request to the Association of Dutch Stockholders asking them not to sue the company after the group said it would seek to force Ahold to restate its earnings again for the past several years. Ahold last year restated its earnings for 2000-2002 after discovering that it had over-reported profits at its U.S. Foodservice subsidiary by nearly $1 billion and made other accounting errors.

Patrick Roquas, analyst, Kempen & Co., Amsterdam, said shareholders may be upset that the company has not yet pinned the blame for the overstatement on anyone.

"The shareholders' opinion is that Ahold has run a lot of investigations, but has not announced who is responsible," he told SN.

Separately, Ahold reported that sales at its U.S. Retail division increased by 0.9% in the recently ended fourth quarter, to $6.3 billion, compared with the fourth quarter of the preceding year. Comparable-store sales were up 0.6%, and identical-store sales fell 0.1%.

The U.S. fourth-quarter results included sales gains of 4.5%, to $2.37 billion, at the company's Stop & Shop division and sales gains of 1.9%, to $1.26 billion, at Giant-Landover. All other divisions combined, which include Giant-Carlisle, Tops, Bruno's, Bi-Lo and Peapod, saw sales decline 2.7% to $2.64 billion.

For the year, U.S. Retail sales increased 2.7%, to $26.95 billion, compared with 2002. Comparable-store sales were up 0.9% and identical-store sales increased 0.1%.