Royal Ahold, the international food provider, today announced that two of its U.S. operating companies have combined strengths in support areas to further improve their competitive position in their respective markets. The two companies are Tops Markets, headquartered in Williamsville in the northwest of New York State, with sales of approximately USD 3 billion; and Pennsylvania-based Giant-Carlisle with sales of approximately USD 2 billion following the ongoing transfer of the 76 stores of the Edwards division to sister company Stop & Shop.The new partnership, called a Shared Services Structure, has been designed to allow both companies to continue to operate individually as separate and distinct businesses. At the same time, they will join forces in support areas such as IT, real estate, private label development, human resources and advertising & promotion to increase efficiency and generate substantial cost savings. The two companies already have much in common, such as similar IT platforms, and are located relatively close to one another.