Dutch retail giant Ahold has announced its intention to divest its Benelux foodservice unit, Deli XL.

Ahold said the move is part of the ongoing strategic review of its operations. The company has initiated a preparatory review and expects to launch the formal divestment process of Deli XL shortly.

With consolidated 2003 net sales of €837m (US$1.03bn), Deli XL is especially strong in the institutional and catering segments of the foodservice market. Currently, Deli XL provides some 60,000 products to 30,000 hospitals, company canteens, schools and hospitality outlets.

"We have decided to divest Deli XL despite the fact that we believe the company is well placed to take advantage of growth opportunities as the fragmented European foodservice industry consolidates," said Ahold president and CEO Anders Moberg.

"Our Dutch business arena strategy is targeted on its retail activities. The investment and management attention needed to assume a greater role in European foodservice is inconsistent with this focus," he added.

Ahold said the decision to sell Deli XL relates solely to the company's Dutch business arena and has no implications for its US foodservice operations.