Delhaize Expresses Tentative Interest in Winn-Dixie Stores

BRUSSELS - Supermarket chain Delhaize, based here, said yesterday it might be interested in buying stores from Winn-Dixie, which announced last week that it would close 156 stores in an effort to cut costs, according to Reuters.

Three-quarters of Delhaize's business is in the United States, where it runs the Food Lion, Hannaford and Harvey's chains.

According to Delhaize spokesman Geoffroy d'Oultremont, "We could be interested, depending on the conditions, but it's too early to be more specific. We will have to analyze the locations, and then we will decide." Delhaize has a policy of "fill-in" acquisitions, which Winn-Dixie's stores might fit into, d'Oultremont said.

"We are in general interested in buying some stores that could reinforce our market position," d'Oultremont added, citing the company's acquisition of 43 Harvey's stores in September.

"Winn-Dixie's decision. . .will give Delhaize the opportunity to buy some stores. Ahold is also selling 470 stores. It's definitely a buyer's market!" KBC Securities analyst Pascale Weber said in a research note. "The closure of Winn-Dixie stores could also reduce the level of competition."
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