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Ahold, Delhaize close to merger deal: report

Dutch retail giant Ahold and its Belgian rival Delhaize are on the verge of a merger announcement to create one of the world’s largest retail companies, Dutch financial daily Het Financieele Dagblad reported on Tuesday.

Citing sources close to the deal, the FD said Tuesday afternoon a merger could be announced as early as Thursday or Friday.

Ahold is to hold a 60 percent stake in the new venture and Delhaize 40 percent, the paper said.

Responding to media reports, Ahold, which owns Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn said in a statement it and Delhaize were “in the final stages of negotiations.”

“No definitive agreements on a transaction has been reached,” it said from its headquarters just outside Amsterdam, adding it expected a “press release in due course.”

Delhaize’s share price jumped by more than eight percent on the Brussels stock market, and trade was suspended. In Amsterdam, meantime, Ahold’s shares gained 1.83 percent to 18.96 euros.

Quoting sources, the FD said executives still had to settle the “fine details,” but were in agreement on the most important points, including the appointment of Ahold boss Dick Boer as the new company’s chief executive.

Delhaize’s chief executive Frans Muller will be tasked with integrating the two rivals.

If achieved, a merger would create the fifth-largest food retailer in the United States, with sales of over 54 billion euros ($60 billion) and more than four percent of the US grocery market, according to analysts at Natixis.

In Europe, the combined business would become the fourth-biggest food retailer, Natixis said.