Hannu Ryöppönen, chief financial officer of Dutch retail giant Ahold, has said the company expects to sell two US grocery retail chains to private equity groups by the end of this year.

Ahold announced last February that it intended to divest its Bi-Lo and Bruno's chains as part of its recovery strategy following a massive accounting scandal.

Ryöppönen said the company was confident it would sell the 470 stores this year, although initial interest by some parties had been reduced by the sale of some stores by US retailer Winn-Dixie, reported The Financial Times. Talks with trade buyers had ended quickly, leaving just private equity firms in the running.

Ahold has been selling-off under-performing assets in several different countries as it attempts to cut debt in the wake of serious financial difficulties caused by the discovery of accounting irregularities in February 2003.