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Albertsons to acquire Safeway in $9.1 billion deal

BY Michael Johnsen

Pleasanton, Calif. — Cerberus Capital Managament, which owns Albertsons, won the bid for Safeway.

Safeway and Albertsons on Thursday announced a definitive agreement under which AB Acquisition will acquire all outstanding shares of Safeway in a deal valued at more than $9.1 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.

The companies will operate independently until closing.

Bob Miller, who will be the executive chairman of the new company of more than 2,400 stores, said, "We intend on keeping the existing retail footprint of both companies." Safeway’s Robert Edwards will serve as president and CEO of the new company. "This deal will create a substantial cost savings," Miller told reporters and analysts Thursday evening. "These are real savings that we will be able to pass along to our customers in lower prices." Miller also noted that the increased buying heft will benefit all banners operating under Albertsons and Safeway.

Shareholders will receive $32.50 per Safeway share in cash, $3.65 per share on the sale of Safeway’s Mexican interest Casa Ley and other holdings and $3.90 per share with the distribution of Safeway’s ownership interest in Blackhawk to Safeway shareholders. That distribution is expected to happen in mid-April.

The merger agreement was unanimously approved by the board of directors of Safeway. AB Acquisition is the owner of Albertson’s and New Albertson’s (collectively “Albertsons”), and is controlled by a Cerberus Capital Management-led investor group, which also includes Kimco Realty Corporation, Klaff Realty, Lubert-Adler Partners and Schottenstein Stores Corporation.

As a result of the merger, Safeway shareholders are expected to receive total value estimated at $40 per share.

Albertsons’ Miller stated: “This transaction offers us the opportunity to better serve customers by adapting more quickly to evolving shopping preferences in diverse regions across the country. It also brings together two great organizations with talented management teams. Robert Edwards and his team have done an outstanding job in positioning Safeway’s core business for success by investing in its stores and creating innovative strategic marketing programs that contribute to shareholder value. Working together will enable us to create cost savings that translate into price reductions for our customers. Together, we will be able to respond to local needs more quickly and deliver outstanding products at the lowest possible price, more efficiently than ever before.”

“This merger is one of several actions we have taken in recent months as a result of our strategic business review. The combined value of the transactions described above is expected to deliver a premium to Safeway’s shareholders of 72% from one year ago, and 56% over the share price six months ago,” said Edwards, current president and CEO of Safeway. “Safeway has been focused on better meeting shoppers’ diverse needs through local, relevant assortment; an improved price/value proposition and a great shopping experience that has driven improved sales trends. We are excited about continuing this momentum as a combined organization. We look forward to working with Bob Miller and the rest of the Albertsons team as we proceed together on a path towards becoming an even stronger organization.”

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Target shoppers wary

BY CSA STAFF

Target’s database breach in December 2013 not only affected the retailer’s fourth quarter comparable store sales, but also contributed to plummeting shopper penetration post-holiday.

Kantar Retail ShopperScape data indicates that just 33% of U.S. households reported shopping at Target or SuperTarget during January 2014, the lowest penetration number for Target in the past three years, and a 22% decrease in penetration compared to January 2013.

Kantar data shows that the overall trend in Target’s past four-week shopper penetration has been on a downward trajectory for the past several years. The shift away from shopping at Target in January varied among key segments of guests but was most significant among its core guests, including Gen X (shoppers 32 to 49 years old), who are more likely than any other cohort to shop Target, as well as lower-income shoppers, who tend to shop Target at a lower rate in general but whose penetration at Target declined by a full 30% from January 2013 to January 2014

“In the wake of that news, Target failed to reach a December ‘bump’ in penetration of the same magnitude as it has enjoyed in recent years,” said Rachel McGuire, Kantar Retail senior analyst and co-author of the report. “Our shopper data reflects the extent to which this issue continues to influence shopper behavior.”

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Big Lots net income, sales shrink in Q4

BY Dan Berthiaume

Columbus, Ohio – Net income and sales declined at Big Lots Inc. during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013 as compared to the same quarter in the prior fiscal year. Net income declined 30% to $84.3 million from $120.3 million, while net sales dropped 6% to $1.64 billion from $1.74 billion.

U.S. same-store sales dropped 3%. The retailer cited a net loss in its Canadian operations as contributing to its disappointing overall performance. In December 2013, Big Lots announced it planned to exit the Canadian market, and closed all Canadian stores by the end of February 2014.

During the full fiscal year 2013, Big Lots reported a 29% net income drop to $125.3 million from $177.1 million. Net sales declined 1% to $5.3 billion from $5.37 billion.

Looking Ahead, Big Lots estimates a first quarter loss from its discontinued Canadian operations in the range of $37 to $41 million, or $0.64 to $0.71 per diluted share, as it continues wind down efforts. This estimate includes charges related to lease liabilities, severance and asset impairment. The retailer also expects U.S. same-store sales for the full fiscal year to range from flat to 2% growth.

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