Shares in Royal Ahold have been given another boost after rumours surfaced that the Dutch retailer might be planning a merger with Belgian supermarket group Delhaize, but analysts remain sceptical that a deal could be in the works. 

Ahold has come under increasing pressure from two hedge funds, the London-based Centaurus Capital and the US’s Paulson & Co, to sell off its US operations – a move that the investors claim would boost shareholder value.

“Ahold is under pressure to look at ways to add value to the stock price,” Shorecap analyst Clive Black told just-food. “This may have forced them to think outside the box, but a merger would come as a big surprise. Ahold carries a lot of debt and I’m not sure the company has the resources available. I’m also not convinced Delhaize investors would want Ahold shares.”

Ahold shares reached a three-year high of EUR8.09 (US$10.28) today (19 September), dropping slightly to EUR7.95 at time of press.