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    Ahold Reports First-quarter Sales

    ZAANDAM, The Netherlands - Royal Ahold on Friday gave its first sales figures since uncovering an accounting scandal in February that involved an $880 million euros earnings overstatement. The group said first-quarter sales fell 11.3 percent to 17.4 billion euros ($19.8 billion).

    ZAANDAM, The Netherlands - Royal Ahold on Friday gave its first sales figures since uncovering an accounting scandal in February that involved an $880 million euros earnings overstatement. The group said first-quarter sales fell 11.3 percent to 17.4 billion euros ($19.8 billion).

    Ahold, whose outlets include Stop & Shop, Bi-Lo and Giant in the United States, said U.S. retail sales increased by 4.8 percent to $8.3 billion vs. $7.9 billion in 2002). Organic sales growth also amounted to 4.8 percent. Comparable sales growth amounted to 2.4 percent, and identical sales growth amounted to 1.5 percent.

    Ahold has not yet published full-year accounts, which have been delayed by a probe into the profits overstatement at the U.S. Foodservice unit, which it acquired for $3.6 billion in early 2000.

    In other Ahold news, the company said its U.S Foodservice unit gained new contracts in the fourth quarter that will generate an annual $400 million in sales and also won some "quite sizeable" contracts in the first quarter.

    "The institutional sector (in the food service business) was impacted by the war in Iraq and U.S. consumers cut back on their spending. But you can also see the impact of the integration of Alliant and PYA and new customers and new contracts were gained," a spokeswoman said on Friday.

    Ahold's Albert Heijn supermarket chain -- the largest in the Netherlands -- said on Friday it will slash about 10 percent of the jobs at its headquarters over the next one-and-a-half years.

    "Last year we announced a hiring freeze...We will cut 10 percent of full time equivalent positions at the head office," Albert Heijn spokesman Hans Koeleman said.

    He added that this represented about 100 jobs and that they would be shed by "natural attrition" with some employees being transferred and no forced redundancies. There are some 1,160 people employed at the headquarters in Zaandam.

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