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Albert Heijn, flagship operation of Ahold in The Netherlands, and one of its most prestigious banners, is running behind on its budget in terms of sales and profits, perhaps by 7% to 8% or the equivalent of $5.3 million (US) per week.

There are also reports that roughly 200 jobs out of 1,000 jobs at Albert Heijn headquarters could be cut. The news comes at a time when Ahold is under severe pressure to assure the market and debtors that it will be able to survive the consequences of the financial scandal that has engulfed it.

In other news, the retailer has confirmed that it plans to start paying its suppliers later in an effort to generate "significant cost savings". The new policy will apply to all its retail chains in The Netherlands and is part of
the company‚s ongoing effort to use its working capital more efficiently.

Reportedly, the move also brings Albert Heijn‚s payment terms into line with European standards. Unilever has already stated that it disapproves of the move. Industry sources fear a serious dispute about to erupt between the two companies, however Ahold stated that it is merely keeping its business as competitive as possible. Rumours of a trade war have been declared as “ridiculous” by Ahold spokesperson Nick Gale.

The emerging news of its flagship Albert Heijn operation underperforming is the last thing Ahold needs at the moment. However, the significance of the news is reduced when one considers the recent price war that has been erupting, even between companies within the same corporate umbrella.

C1000, the supermarket chain operated by Ahold subsidiary Schuitema, has stated its irritation at Albert Heijn‚s price campaign, with Jan Brouwer (director of Schuitema) accusing Albert Heijn of hurting the market with its discounting.

Whatever the context, however, the speculation comes at a difficult time:with such uncertainty still hanging over it, Ahold needs all of its valuable assets looking at their best.
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