Hedge funds Paulson and Centaurus are seeking shareholder support for proposals to sell-off Royal Ahold's US operations in an attempt to increase pressure on the company, a source close to the situation told just-food today (18 September).

The management of the Dutch retailer has refused to meet with the hedge funds, who argue that Ahold could enhance shareholder value through the sale of its US businesses which account for about 70% of sales. A representative for the company connected this refusal to the strict corporate governance rules adopted following the 2003 accounting scandal. However Centaurus and Paulson hope that if they can drum up enough shareholder support management will be forced to meet with them, the source - who asked to remain unnamed - said.

"Partly the management of Ahold are not talking to Centaurus or Paulson because they think that they are in a minority," the source explained. If a significant number of shareholders agree with the proposals, then it is hoped that Ahold will pay more heed to the calls to sell its US division.

Paulson and Centaurus hold a combined stake of 6.4% in Ahold.