The parent company of Fred Meyer announced Friday it is planning to sell 14 of 35 Carrs Safeway stores in Alaska as part of a proposed $24.6 billion merger between the two biggest grocers in the U.S., but did not specify if Juneau’s Safeway store is among those designed for sale.
Kroger Co. and Albertsons Companies Inc. plan to sell more than 400 stores and other assets to C&S Wholesale Grocers in the merger targeted for early completion next year, according to a press release issued Friday by Albertsons. Kroger is the parent company of Fred Meyer, while Albertsons is the parent company of Safeway.
Mark Jones, store director at the Juneau Safeway, said Friday he did not know yet if his store will be among those sold if the merger is approved by federal regulators.
“We’ve had conference calls in regards to all that this morning, discussing everything that was announced,” he said. “And based on what we’re hearing right now is we’re not going to probably hear anything about what stores — if it even does go through because nothing is confirmed yet with the (Federal Trade Commission). This is just a proposal they’re making, and they’re legally required to disclose that on their earnings calls and everything.”
Jones said he was told affected stores likely won’t know about their status until at least early next year.
C&S, founded in 1918, is a supplier to independent grocery stores, supplying more than 7,500 independent supermarkets, retail chain stores and military bases, according to the Associated Press. It currently runs Grand Union grocery stores and Piggly Wiggly franchise and corporate-owned stores in the Midwest and Carolinas.
C&S has prior experience with divestitures related to mergers and has successfully transitioned union employees and their associated collective bargaining agreements in the past.
“Importantly in our agreement, C&S commits to honoring all collective bargaining agreements which include industry-leading benefits, retaining frontline associates and further investing for growth,” Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen said in a statement on Friday.
The merger has raised concerns among consumers and officials in Alaska, and elsewhere, about possible store closures, large-scale layoffs and higher prices. U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, an Alaska Democrat, wrote a letter Aug. 16 to FTC Chair Lina Khan asking the merger be blocked.
“Alaska already has an incredibly concentrated grocery store market, and potential divestments of stores resulting from the merger would threaten both competition and basic food security in many communities across the state,” Peltola wrote. “The five largest jurisdictions by population in Alaska are Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Kenai-Soldotna. In each of these communities, Fred Meyer (Kroger) and Carrs (Albertsons) are the primary competitors selling groceries and household goods.”
“If the proposed merger goes through, store closures and reduced competition could result in a significantly reduced competition, or even a near-monopolistic landscape in a state that already has some of the highest costs of living in the United States.”
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