Troubled Dutch retailer Ahold has denied reports that it has set a deadline for the sale of its Spanish assets.

Spanish newspaper Cinco Dias had reported that Ahold expects to divest its Spanish assets by mid-2004 and that it has valued the assets at around €1.5bn (US$1.7bn), reported Dow Jones International News.

Ahold spokesman Nick Gale, however, denied that the retailer had set a deadline or indeed put a price tag on them.

"It is not a firesale, we are going to pursue a cautious and timely approach," Gale was quoted as saying by Dow Jones. He added that Ahold would not rush because it wanted to "achieve maximum value from the divestments."

Ahold operates around 625 stores in Spain and has 14,000 employees there.