Dutch retailer Ahold may have to pay as much as €1bn (US$1.2bn) to secure a 20% stake in its Nordic JV ICA AB, after its Swedish partner ICA Förbundent (IFAB) said it does not plan to purchase the stake.

IFAB CEO Claes-Göran Sylvén said that the seller of the shares, Norwegian investment group Canica, had failed to indicate the price it was seeking, which made it impossible to plan a purchase. “We cannot buy something that doesn’t have a price tag,” Sylvén is reported by the FT as saying after a special meeting of IFAB in Stockholm.

The current ownership structure of ICA AB is Ahold 50%, IFAB 30% and Canica 20%. The JV operates some 3000 stores in Scandinavia and the Baltic States, and reported 2003 turnover of SKr72bn (US$9.5bn), the paper reported.

If Canica sells, it has to offer its shares to IFAB first. If IFAB declines to buy, the terms of the shareholders’ agreement dictate that Ahold must buy the stake up for grabs. Given Ahold’s current efforts to get its remaining operations back on track after an accounting scandal last year, this development does not come at a great time.