Albertsons buys back 33 stores

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BOISE, Idaho — As Albertsons weighs staging an initial public offering it had originally planned for October, it is expanding with the purchase of 33 stores it had been forced last year to divest.

A federal bankruptcy court last month approved the company’s purchase of the Haggen stores, which Albertsons had sold to win regulatory approval for its merger with Safeway.

The Federal Trade Commission approved the merger in January with the stipulation that Albertsons and Safeway divest 168 stores to maintain competition in several western states. Barring the sell-off, Albertsons would lack a significant rival in 130 local markets, the agency said.

Most of the stores that were shed to meet the approval were picked up by Bellingham, Wash.-based Haggen, which the FTC saw becoming a significant player in the West. But Haggen, which grew by some 800%, had difficulties making its new acquisitions viable. Filing for bankruptcy, it prepared to shutter more than 100 of the newly acquired stores.

With no other buyers stepping up for some of the units, the FTC, in a rare move, agreed to let Albertsons take back 33.

Albertsons shelved plans for the October IPO — which it had hoped would raise $1.6 billion — as a result of market volatility. The company, the nation’s No. 2 supermarketer, planned to offer 65.3 million shares at a price of $23 to $26. At the midpoint of the proposed range Albertsons would command a fully diluted market value of $11.9 billion.



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