Ahold reveals its auditors won't back '00, '01 results

Accounting firm withdrew analyses in Feb. 24 letter to Dutch firm, SEC is told

March 07, 2003|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

The embattled Dutch owner of Giant Food Inc. and U.S. Foodservice notified the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday that its auditors no longer stand behind the company's 2000 and 2001 financial results.

Royal Ahold NV, which acknowledged Feb. 24 that it overstated its financial results by $500 million for those two years, is facing investigations by the SEC and Justice Department for accounting irregularities at U.S. Foodservice, its Columbia-based subsidiary.

The auditors - Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, the world's second-largest accounting firm - said in a letter to Ahold dated Feb. 24, "We no longer maintain our auditors' opinions in connection with the annual accounts for 2000 and 2001 and no longer permit publication of these opinions."

In its SEC filing yesterday, Ahold attached an unofficial English translation of the letter. The accounting firm also has suspended its audit of Ahold's books for 2002, pending the investigations.

The accounting investigation at the world's third-largest retailer led to the resignations last week of Chief Executive Officer Cees van der Hoeven and Chief Financial Officer A. Michiel Meurs.

On Wednesday, Ahold secured a $2.91 billion credit line to stabilize its finances after pledging Giant and other U.S. and Dutch grocery chains as collateral.

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