As per a recent report by Reuters, Kroger and Albertsons, two major grocery store chains, are said to be discussing the possibility of selling off around 250-300 stores in order to address concerns related to antitrust issues that have arisen due to their proposed merger. These stores, which could potentially be situated in various regions where both companies operate, are expected to fetch a total of over 1 billion dollars from their sale. While sources who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity provided this information, neither Kroger nor Albertsons commented on the matter.
Previously, Kroger and Albertsons had revealed their plans to divest between 100 and 375 locations as part of their merger agreement, which was valued at 24.6 billion dollars. The two companies had also proposed creating a new entity to manage these stores that were to be divested. However, in case they are mandated to sell more than 650 stores, Kroger has stated in a financial filing that it would reconsider the merger.
Although there is significant overlap between Kroger and Albertsons in certain markets such as the Western U.S. and Chicago, there is less overlap in other regions such as the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, as well as some Midwestern markets. The companies have been reaching out to potential buyers for these stores and have been in touch with the Federal Trade Commission about their plans.
Ahold Delhaize, which operates several grocery chains along the East Coast, such as Stop & Shop, Giant, Food Lion, and Hannaford, has been identified as a potential buyer for these divested locations. However, a spokesperson for the company was unavailable for comment.
The FTC is expected to scrutinize the divestiture plans closely, given the issues that arose during the Albertsons-Safeway merger. In that case, Haggen acquired 146 stores to meet antitrust regulator requirements but was unable to operate them successfully, resulting in the company filing for bankruptcy. Opposition to the proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger remains strong, with a group of consumers recently filing an antitrust lawsuit to block the merger and reverse the 4 billion dollar special dividend payment made by Albertsons to its shareholders. Several state attorneys general have also pledged to examine the merger more closely, despite failing to prevent the dividend payment, which they claim weakens Albertsons' financial position. The merger, which is expected to be the largest in the history of the grocery industry, is set to be finalized in 2024.