Labour union FNV has launched an investigation into Ahold Delhaize’s Swiss connection, which contains several of the supermarket chain’s patents and brand names.
Swiss subsidiary Ahold Licensing Sàrl owns about 350, mainly American, brand names and patents, but also for instance convenience store chain Etos’ brand name.
According to FNV and the Stichting Onderzoek Multinationale Ondernemingen (SOMO - Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations ), this is mainly a major tax benefit to Ahold Delhaize. The move is designed to lower the company’s taxes in the Netherlands and the United States. Stores in both countries are forced to pay the Swiss subsidiary royalties to use the brand names, which in turn brings down the company’s local profit. Other companies do something similar.
FNV’s Tuur Elzinga told Trouw that “this is how the Netherlands miss out on money it could spend on public services. Ahold uses our infrastructure and our well-educated employees and when there is a fire, the fire department shows up. We all pay for that service and we expect Ahold to contribute as well through its Dutch taxes, just like citizens and SMEs do.“
“No other explanation”
Ahold Delhaize refused to talk about the investigation’s conclusions, but did point out those were not entirely factual. “The data and conclusions in SOMO’s report are theirs and theirs alone. It is entirely based on incomplete data and information that has been taken out of context”, the supermarket company said.
According to SOMO, it is clear that Ahold Delhaize created its Swiss subsidiary for tax reasons only. However, it does not have sufficient data on that subsidiary to back its claim. “It is the only explanation that remains, but without any additional information on these Swiss subsidiaries, we cannot prove it. Ahold itself cannot prove another explanation”, SOMO researcher Vincent Kiezebrink said.