Dutch Ahold to sell stake in Sweden's ICA to Hakon

Dutch retail giant Ahold said on Monday that it was selling its majority stake in Scandinavian supermarket chain ICA to Stockholm-based Hakon Invest in a deal worth more than two billion euros.

The deal will result in Hakon, which already owns 40 percent of ICA, becoming the sole owner of the grocery chain which operates 2,215 shops, mainly in Sweden but also in Norway and the Baltic states.

ICA had a turnover of over 11.2 billion euros in 2012.

Hakon Invest will fuse with ICA to become a single company called ICA Gruppen.

Ahold "has reached an agreement with Hakon Invest regarding the sale of Ahold's 60 percent holding in ICA, the Scandinavian retailer, for 21.2 billion kronor (2.4 billion euros, $3.2 billion)," Ahold said in a statement.

The deal includes ICA's 2012 dividend of 1.2 billion kronor, the Amsterdam-based Ahold said.

ICA is co-owned by Ahold (60 percent) and the Swedish investment fund Hakon Invest AB (40 percent). However, decision-making weight is split 50-50.

The Amsterdam-based Ahold said it expected the deal to be completed by mid-2013, adding that the transaction was subject to regulatory approvals as well as by the ICA Retailers' Association.

The transaction "will have no direct impact on the joint activities of ICA and Ahold in areas such as sourcing and responsible retailing," Ahold stressed, saying business with ICA dated back more than 30 years.

Hakon Invest's chief executive Claes-Goran Sylven said in a statement the fusion between Hakon and ICA would not change a "business model that has been succesful for nearly 100 years now."

Investors welcomed the news with Ahold's shares gaining 4.25 percent to just over 11 euros in mid-morning trade on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.

Hakon Invest, listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange saw its shares soar by 12 percent.

Ahold said in September it was looking at selling off its stake in ICA, indicating it wanted to focus its strategy on companies in which it had full control.

Ahold owns about 3,000 stores in North America and Europe and employs around 218,000 people.

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