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  • Ahold, still recovering from an accounting scandal and selling off non-core properties, announced that it is being contractually forced to acquire more of the ICA joint venture in Scandinavia, though it does not agree on the price set for the sale.

    One of the partners in ICA, Canica, had the contractual right to sell Ahold its 20 percent position, and said it wanted to do so for $1.34 billion (US). However, over the weekend Ahold and its second partner in the venture, ICA Forbundet, agreed to split the newly available stake, with each taking an extra 10 percent of the company. This gives Ahold 60 percent of the company, with the remaining 40 percent owned by ICA Forbundet.

    The parties have three weeks to agree on a price, or a decision on the fair market price will be made by an arbitrator.

  • The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that “merger talks between beer giants Molson Inc. and Adolph Coors Co. have gained momentum, creating the potential for a new North American brewing giant in a rapidly consolidating industry.”

    The merger could be worth about $3 billion (US).

  • In comments submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week, the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) highlighted several industry-wide concerns regarding FDA’s implementation of its prior notice of food import requirements.

    Under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, food and beverage companies are required to submit prior notice before importing foods for human consumption. FDA issued the interim final rule for prior notice in December 2003. Full enforcement is expected to begin on August 13, 2004.

    "When FDA issued the interim final rule for prior notice, it wisely established an ‘educational’ phase that would allow companies to become familiar with how the system works while maintaining the free flow of trade," said Susan Stout, GMA vice president of federal affairs. "However, the educational portion of the system has been sadly lacking, and there is no basis to conclude that the prior notice system will work as intended once the educational phase ends and full enforcement begins."

    According to FDA estimates, as many as 50,000 prior notices per week are incomplete, but FDA has not notified importers why. Companies, therefore, have no basis to determine whether their efforts to comply with the regulation have been successful. Stout added, "We suggest that FDA extend the education phase and provide specific feedback to companies regarding incomplete prior notices."

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