Kroger, Albertsons In Talks to Sell Stores to C&S, SoftBank

Grocery Giants Looking to Unload Stores for Antitrust Reasons Ahead of Merger
The SoftBank Corp. logo
The SoftBank Corp. logo displayed near a store in Tokyo. (Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg News)

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Kroger Co. and Albertsons Cos. are selling some of their stores in an effort to win regulatory approval for their $25 billion merger, according to people familiar with the matter.

C&S Wholesale Grocers — with backing from SoftBank Group Corp. — is in talks to buy them.

C&S, which has partnered with SoftBank for the transaction, could announce a deal any day to acquire most or all of the stores being unloaded for antitrust reasons, said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter isn’t public. The companies said in October that they would spin off 100 to 375 stores if they couldn’t find buyers for them.

It’s not clear how many stores C&S is acquiring or how much it is paying for them.

The Kroger Co., Albertsons Cos. and C&S Wholesale Grocers rank Nos. 38, 40 and 98, respectively, on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.

SoftBank, the Japanese tech investing giant, is active in the supply chain sector via investments including Symbotic Inc., which is run by Rick Cohen, who is also the executive chairman of C&S.

Representatives for C&S, Kroger and SoftBank declined to comment. Representatives for Albertsons didn’t immediately comment.

The Kroger-Albertsons deal, which the companies aim to close in early 2024, would combine two of the leading grocery chains in the U.S. into a retail giant with nearly 5,000 stores — large enough to take on leading grocer Walmart Inc.

A number of state treasurers and secretaries of state have urged the Federal Trade Commission to block the deal because they say it would hurt wages and competition. Some senators and members of Congress have criticized the deal too.

C&S, based in Keene, N.H., supplies more than 100,000 different products to more than 7,500 supermarkets, chain stores, military bases and other locations where groceries are sold, according to its website. It also operates stores under the Grand Union and Piggly Wiggly brands.

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