Ahold has spread its tentacles further into central America through a strategic tie up with Costa Rican supermarket chain CSU to form a joint venture set to dominate food retailing in the region. Under the deal, Ahold and La Fragua, its local partner in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, have teamed up with CSU to link their operations in the region. Each company will take an equal share in the new business. The new Central American Retail Holding Company has combined sales of $1.3bn and operates in five countries with 253 stores. In a joint statement, CSU chairman Rodrigo Uribe and La Fragua chain Carlos Paiz said the group would look to expand in the region organically and through acquisitions while synergies would be achieved in distribution and purchasing: "The new economies of scale and synergies will benefit customers, the business and the local economies. We also have the ambition later to team up with other local parties in central American countries where we have no presence yet." The partnership is also expected to create new cross selling opportunities for suppliers and CSU's manufacturing subsidiary CCA to get listings in the international store networks of members of the new group. l In a separate development, Ahold has announced a deal with Esso to develop a chain of forecourts in the Netherlands, trading under a new fascia called AH to Go. The company has drawn on its expertise in forecourt retailing in the US and Scandinavia to develop an offer with a strong emphasis on fresh and chilled, said a spokesman. The first of 10 stores planned for 2002 will open in the New Year, with the grocery offer supplied by Ahold's Dutch chain, Albert Heijn. {{NEWS }}