Royal Ahold (NYSE:AHO), the international food retailer, today announced it has received the green light from the European Commission (EC) in Brussels to finalize its 50-50 joint venture transaction with the ICA Group, Scandinavia's leading food retailer with 3,100 stores and 1999 sales of Euro 6.7 billion. The EC's Competition Directorate notified Ahold that the proposed joint venture, ICA Ahold Holding AB, raises no serious doubts as to its compliance with common market principles. The EC also concluded that the Ahold-ICA transaction would not result in any overlaps in the parties' activities at either national or any narrower level. For these reasons, the EC has decided not to oppose the transaction and to declare it compatible with its merger regulations. "Now that we have the go-ahead from the European Commission following on a successful March 24 conclusion of the public offer for ICA shares, we expect to close the transaction, including payment, by April 28, 2000," said an Ahold spokesman. "We anticipate any remaining conditions should be met over the next couple of weeks." Upon finalization of the transaction, Ahold will hold a 50% interest in ICA Ahold Holding AB, the joint venture into which the ICA Group's activities have been brought. ICA Forbundet, the association of ICA retailers, and Canica, the investment company of the Norwegian Hagen family, hold the other 50% of ICA Ahold Holding AB.