BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The current focus of Ahold is to operate in reduced geography and to achieve the first or second market-share ranking in each of its markets, according to Anders Moberg, Ahold's president and chief executive officer.
Moberg was a speaker at a session entitled "the road to recovery" at last week's Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Executive Conference here. Speaking at the same session was E. Neville Isdell, chairman and chief executive officer, Coca-Cola Co.
Moberg picked up the reins of Ahold, the Netherlands-based food-retailing giant, shortly after an accounting scandal enveloped the company in March 2003. Ahold's chief executive and financial officer resigned on the spot. The scandal, involving vendor allowances, eventually caused Ahold to restate several years' net income downward by about $1 billion and caused its equity value to sink.
In the 20 months he has been at Ahold, Moberg said, his efforts have been pointed at restoring financial accountability and to sell assets to pay down debt. The sale of assets has allowed Ahold to refocus its efforts on four areas: the United States, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries and Central Europe. Regions such as Latin America and Asia have been exited. Remaining Ahold banners in the U.S. include Stop & Shop, Giant-Landover, Md., Giant-Carlisle, Pa., and Tops Friendly Markets. Ahold has reached an agreement to sell its Bi-Lo and Bruno's units in the U.S.
Moberg said new accounting standards are in place at U.S. Foodservice, the business unit that was the seat of many of its accounting troubles.
He added that the conclusion of asset sales has allowed Ahold's stores to build management teams around fewer stores and to bring those stores into positions of greater price competitiveness. Moreover, the objective is to make stores more aware of consumers and to deliver what they want.
Moberg came out of retirement from a long career at IKEA and later at Home Depot, Europe, to head Ahold.
As for Coca-Cola's Isdell, he said his objective is to restore the reputation of the company based on three strengths the company possesses: a powerful brand, the most extensive distribution system in the world and a deep-rooted relationship with customers.
He asserted that sustained innovation and gradual improvement day after day is more important that engendering startling change.
Coca-Cola has been under the gun lately owing to federal investigations of its business practices and because it was slow to augment its product line with non-carbonated beverages.