Dutch, Belgian retailers Ahold and Delhaize say they are in preliminary merger talks

AMSTERDAM – Dutch retailer Royal Ahold NV, operator of the U.S. supermarket chains Stop & Shop and Giant, says it is in talks with Belgian counterpart Delhaize Group about a possible merger.

Ahold and Delhaize issued statements Tuesday saying they are in discussions “to explore the opportunity of combining the two companies.”

The brief statements say the “preliminary” talks “may or may not result in a future transaction.”

Delhaize, which owns supermarkets throughout Belgium, also operates the Hannaford and Food Lion stores in the eastern United States.

Stocks in both companies soared Monday on reports of the talks. By early afternoon Tuesday, Delhaize was trading at 83.70 euros ($94.21) and Ahold was at 18.53 euros ($20.86).