Ahold rebuked on accounting

Amsterdam—The European stock exchange Euronext reprimanded Ahold NV today for violating market rules by not sooner disclosing accounting problems that nearly brought the company to bankruptcy last year. Euronext said Ahold, which owns U.S. Foodservice as well as the Stop & Shop and Giant supermarkets in the United States, should have warned the market about a month earlier than it did.

The official reprimand by Ahold's home exchange carries no further punishment and comes more than a year after it admitted it overstated earnings by more than $1 billion in 2000-2002. Ahold dismissed Euronext's warning as based on “an incomplete and incorrect understanding of the facts,” adding that admitting the problems sooner might have threatened its ability to get a loan it needed, according to a company statement.

Most recently, Ahold reported a net profit of $14.4 million on sales of $15.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2003. It remains under investigation by prosecutors and regulators in both the U.S. and the Netherlands.