Friday, October 16, 2020

Acme Buying Kings, Balducci’s Stores Comes Amid Tougher Specialty Grocer Competition

by Linda Moss Costar

 Acme Markets plans to keep operating 27 Kings Food Market and Balducci's Food Lover's Market stores under their current retail banners after it acquires them for $96.4 million as specialty grocers struggle with added competition.

Acme, a Malvern, Pennsylvania-based division of retail food giant Albertsons Cos., said it was the successful bidder for the Kings and Balducci's regional chains in a bankruptcy auction. The deal, which needs approval of the Federal Trade Commission, is expected to close later this fiscal year.

Several specialty supermarket chains, including Fairway Market and Dean & DeLuca, sought bankruptcy protection this year after facing heightened competition from rivals such as Amazon's Whole Foods Market. They also had to grapple with a rise in online ordering in the coronavirus outbreak via outlets such as, big-box stores including Costco and Walmart, and international players like Aldi.

In August, KB US Holdings, which owns Kings and Balducci's, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At that time, Parsippany, New Jersey-based KB said it had a $75 million stalking-horse offer from TLI Bedrock for 30 of Kings' and Balducci's 35 brick-and-mortar locations, which are in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia. But Acme ended up with the winning bid, with TBI Bedrock's offer now a backup.

When it completes its acquisition of Kings and Balducci's, the just over two dozen stores it's buying will become part of Albertsons' mid-Atlantic division, which operates Acme and Safeway stores on the East Coast. Acme has roughly 160 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Connecticut and Maryland.

"Our company has a history of managing small, differentiated chains that offer an elevated experience, like Andronicos and Haggens in the western U.S.," Jim Perkins, mid-Atlantic division president, said in a statement. "When we leverage their team's expertise and continue to deliver what their customers want, these stores can thrive."

Albertsons, based in Boise, Idaho, is a publicly traded U.S. food and drug retailer that operates about 2,300 stores. It has brick-and-mortar locations across 34 states and the District of Columbia under the names Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs.

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