Private equity and trade buyers are showing an interest in Dutch retailer Ahold’s EUR3bn (US$3.8bn) US Foodservice division, The Business reported yesterday (1 October).

According to the report, Ahold – which is rumoured to be in merger talks with Belgian retailer Delhaize – is preparing to put its US Foodservice unit up for sale. Previously, it had been rumoured that the proceeds from such a sale would be used to finance a one-off exceptional dividend associated with the Delhaize merger. According to The Business, the commencement of a disposal process could be announced as early as this month.

Ahold were unavailable for comment at time of press, but the retailer has thus far remained silent on the speculation.

Ahold hedge fund investors, Centuras and Paulson, have been calling for a break-up of the retailer, arguing that it would allow the company to boost returns to shareholders.

The Business also reported that Ahold is planning to bring forward the completion date of a highly anticipated strategic review of under-performing units. Citing sources familiar with the situation, the paper said that the results of the review could be released in about two-weeks.

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Among the interested parties are believed to be South African food services group Bidvest, which bought Deli XL, Ahold’s European wholesale business, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which bought Ahold’s Stop & Shop chain, and Cerberus Capital Management. One private equity buyer is rumoured to be lining up a bid for the entire business.