Adding bulk to its online-shopping basket, Dutch food retailer Royal Ahold NV on Monday, Feb. 27, agreed to buy private equity-owned Internet retailer Bol.com BV for €350 million ($479.8 million).
Ahold, which is based in Amsterdam and Utrecht, is buying Bol.com from Naarden-based Cyrte Investments, which purchased Bol.com from Germany's Holtzbrinck Networks GmbH and Verlagsgruppe Weltbild GmbH for an undisclosed price in 2009, and NPM Capital NV, a 44% shareholder in the business since 2009.
According to a source close to the situation, Cyrte made a 2.4 times return on its initial investment.
In a statement, Ahold CEO Dick Boer said the purchase of the Netherlands' leading retail website "provides us with the platform, scale and expertise we need to accelerate our growth in online retailing."
Boer, who took the reins at Ahold nearly a year ago, is seeking to expand the company's geographic reach and online sales. Ahold expects the Bol.com purchase will add to earnings from day one.
The acquisition comes a month after Ahold's Giant Food Stores LLC of Carlisle, Pa., agreed to buy 16 Genuardi's stores in the Philadelphia region for $106 million from Safeway Inc. Both deals are also among a growing list of bolt-on, middle-market acquisitions by cash-rich corporate buyers.
After the expected closing in the second quarter of 2012, Bol.com will become Ahold's fifth retail brand in its home Dutch market, alongside Albert Heijn supermarkets, Etos drugstores, Gall & Gall wine and liquor chain, and the Albert.nl online grocery site. Bol.com will remain in the hands of its current management team, led by managing director Daniel Ropers.
"I am very enthusiastic about combining our online proposition with Ahold's to create additional benefits for our customers, while maintaining our distinct Bol.com identity and style," said Ropers.
Bol.com serves 3.4 million active customers, with total net sales of €355 million ($475 million) in 2011. Almost half of all Dutch customers who purchased products online shopped at Bol.com last year, buying more than 17 million nonfood products including books, entertainment, electronics and toys.
In a research note, analyst Richard Withagen of SNS Securities in Amsterdam said that the acquisition offers Ahold the platform, scale and expertise to accelerate its growth in online retailing. He reiterated his buy recommendation on Ahold shares, with a price target of €11.50.