Supervalu to sell grocery chains to investor group

Supervalu Inc., the nation’s No. 3 traditional supermarket operator, said Thursday it will sell 877 stores in five grocery chains to an investor group led by Cerberus Capital Management.

The chains are Albertson’s, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s and Star Market.

The 19 Albertson’s in Louisiana are not part of the sale; they already are owned by the investor group. The Albertson’s here were acquired in a 2006 deal that got the investor group 200 Albertson’s stores in the South and Southwest.

Bob Miller, who heads the Albertson’s already owned by the Cerberus-led investment group, said the performance at the newly acquired Albertson’s could be improved.

“In 2006, we acquired a set of stores that lacked investment and were in tough shape,” he said, noting that those stores have grown into a “solid regional supermarket chain with growing sales.”

Of the Louisiana stores in that transaction, seven were in Baton Rouge, three were in Lafayette, two in Lake Charles and one each in Alexandria, Bossier City, Broussard, Denham Springs, Hammond, Mandeville and Shreveport.

Following the latest sale, Supervalu will focus on its Save-A-Lot discount stores, as well as its smaller regional chains Cub, Farm Fresh, Shoppers, Shop ‘n Save and Hornbacher’s. It will also keep its wholesale business that distributes groceries to stores.

The investor group will pay $100 million in cash for the Supervalu stores, and the new company will assume $3.2 billion in existing debt.

Supervalu has struggled for years to turn around its business. The broader supermarket industry has been facing growing competition from big-box retailers such as Target, drugstore chains and dollar stores. While bigger chains such as Kroger Co. have adapted by tweaking store formats and improving discount programs and product offerings, Supervalu has scrambled to keep pace.