Global retailer Ahold rushed out a statement this week to calm investors after its shares fell 10% after a report suggested it may be forced to buy-out its Scandinavian partners, ICA and Canica.

The Dutch group clarified a joint venture agreement finalised in 2000 with the ICA supermarket chain and Canica - the investment company of the Hagen family.

This would require Ahold to buy the stakes held by the Scandanavian partners if they chose to leave the alliance.

Ahold chief financial officer Michiel Meurs said all partners have the right to sell their shares but not before April 2004.