Dutch retail giant Ahold has announced that it has sold its Spanish retail operations to European private equity firm Permira for around €685m (US$846.7m).

The company said the final purchase price is subject to customary price adjustments. Closing is anticipated before the end of the year and is subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions, including antitrust approval.

Ahold operates almost 600 stores on the Spanish mainland and the Canary Islands with net sales in 2003 of approximately €2bn.

"This divestment is part of our 'Road to Recovery' strategy to optimise our portfolio and to strengthen our financial position," said Anders Moberg, Ahold's president and CEO.

"It represents an important milestone in our divestment programme and demonstrates our continued focus on improving the balance sheet by reducing net debt. We announced in November 2003 that we intended to withdraw from the Spanish market. We initiated a careful process in order to generate maximum value for our Spanish retail operations," Moberg said, adding that Ahold is pleased to have reached an agreement with Permira.