Ahold 4Q Net More Than Doubles

Netherlands, Dutch retailer Ahold NV beat market forecasts on Thursday as it more than doubled fourth-quarter net profit and said it would buy back more shares, suggesting it expects a good price for a U.S. unit. Profit rose to 240 million euros ($319 million) from 108 million euros a year ago.

Ahold said it planned to increase its share buyback to 3 billion euros from 2 billion, raising hopes it will get a higher-than-expected price for its catering-supplies unit, U.S. Foodservice, which it put up for sale last November. Asked whether the higher buyback was linked to optimism about the U.S. Foodservice sale, CFO John Rishton said: "Clearly we have more information than we had."

He said the sale process was progressing well but declined to provide more details.

Ahold is selling U.S. Foodservice, which sources say has attracted bids from several private equity groups and could receive more than $6 billion.

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