FINANCE

Bi-Lo acquires Winn-Dixie, takes chain private

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Greenville, S.C. — Grocer Bi-Lo LLC said Monday that it has acquired southern supermarket chain Winn-Dixie, in a $560 million transaction that will take Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. private and create the largest grocery operator in the South.

The merger will combine Winn-Dixie’s 480 supermarkets in five southern states (Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi) with Bi-Lo’s 207 stores in the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee to create a company with 690 stores and 63,000 workers in eight states.

The companies said Monday that no store closings are expected and the name Winn-Dixie will remain because of its strong brand recognition in the South.

"With no overlap in our markets, the combined company will have a perfect geographic fit that will create a stronger platform from which to provide our customers great products at a great value, while continuing to offer exceptional service," said Bi-Lo chairman Randall Onstead.

The deal is expected to close in the next 60 to 120 days. The companies said that details such as management structure and headquarters location haven’t been worked out yet but that they expect to maintain a presence in current corporate home bases of Greenville, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.

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FINANCE

Online holiday spending continues at 15% growth clip

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Reston, Va. — Following recent e-commerce trends released by comScore, online spending continues to grow at a consistent 15% rate. As reported earlier, holiday e-commerce spending rose 15% year-over-year to $26.8 billion for the first 42 days of the shopping season, through Dec. 12.

And on Sunday, comScore released its latest findings, that online sales surpassed $1 billion on four days during the work week of December 12-16, a 15% increase over the same period last year.

"Free shipping is undoubtedly one of the most important incentives for consumers and has become a key driver of online buying activity over the past few years," comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said.

Over the holiday shopping season to date, consumers have spent $30.9 billion toward online purchases during the current holiday season. comScore also said, however, that spending has reached a crescendo for this season and will begin to slow as Christmas nears.

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FINANCE

Illinois Governor signs tax breaks for Sears, cementing home in Chicago

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Springfield, Ill. — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Friday that grants hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives aimed at keeping Sears Holdings Corp., along with CME Group Inc., which operates the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, headquartered in Illinois.

Lawmakers approved the business tax breaks earlier this month, but Quinn had not yet signed the bill. Both companies had openly threatened to leave the state without some kind of significant aid package.

The bill renews a credit Sears has been getting for years. It guarantees the retailer a $15 million break on its taxes over the next decade and extends a property-tax cut. "We applaud the governor for his leadership and recognition of Sears’ contributions to our state — thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of tax dollars," Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite said. "We look forward to remaining in Illinois and building on our long and rich history here."

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