Ahold could sell all or part of its distribution unit US Foodservice as part of a strategy to reduce debt at the Dutch group as it battles for survival in the wake of a number accounting scandals.

The Financial Times said according to sources, the plan has been mapped out by Dudley Eustace, Ahold's interim chief financial officer, to reduce its 12bn euros of debt and regain credibility with investors.

Eustace is understood to have had expressions of interest in a range of assets from private equity and venture capital groups, and has “made it clear Ahold wants to shed US Foodservice”, a source told the paper.

One person familiar with Ahold's plans said that even after the resolution of accounting issues, the price tag for US Foodservice was likely to be much smaller than the $3.6bn Ahold paid in early 2000, the FT said.