C&S, SoftBank near deal to buy stores from Kroger, Albertsons – source

(Reuters) -C&S Wholesale Grocers, with the backing of SoftBank Group, is nearing a deal to acquire stores that Kroger and Albertsons Companies Inc are looking to sell to obtain regulatory approvals for their $25 billion merger, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

The deal value and the number of stores included in the transaction could not be immediately learned.

C&S lost one of its largest customers, Ahold Delhaize, when the supermarket group decided to transition to self-distribution in 2019. C&S can help offset that loss through acquisitions.

Bloomberg News, which first reported the talks, said that C&S could announce the deal to acquire most or all of the stores that the supermarket operators are unloading for antitrust reasons as soon as this week.

Kroger, Albertsons, C&S and SoftBank did not respond to Reuters’ request for a comment.

Reuters had reported in February that Kroger and Albertsons were advancing their plans to sell between 250 and 300 stores that they hope will alleviate U.S. antitrust concerns over their combination.

The stores that the firms may sell could be worth more than $1 billion and are located across all the regions where the two companies operate such as the Pacific Northwest, Southern California, Phoenix and Chicago.

In March, the companies reiterated that they would divest some stores to win the regulatory clearance required to go ahead with the merger.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is reviewing Kroger’s proposed $24.6 billion acquisition of Albertsons, is under pressure from some U.S. lawmakers and consumer advocacy groups to block the deal on concerns it may lead to higher grocery prices.

(Reporting by Juby Babu in Bengaluru, Anirban Sen and Abigail Summerville in New York; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Rashmi Aich)