Bi-Lo buys Winn-Dixie for $530 million

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GREENVILLE, S.C. — The supermarket chain Winn-Dixie is being sold in a deal valued at $530 million to Bi-Lo LLC, the companies said Monday, creating a huge grocery operator in the South.

Shares of Winn-Dixie, which has more than twice the number of stores of its buyer, soared 70 percent, finishing up $3.81 at $9.24. The company had struggled in the past, entering into bankruptcy protection in 2005, but has been revamping operations in recent years.

The combined company will have about 690 stores and 63,000 workers in eight states in the South. Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. will become a privately held subsidiary and its ticker will be removed from the Nasdaq. Bi-Lo is a private company.

Each Winn-Dixie stockholder gets $9.50 per share in cash, a 75 percent premium to the Jacksonville, Fla., company’s Friday closing stock price. At that price, the deal would be valued at slightly more than $530 million.

Bi-Lo, based in Greenville, S.C., runs 207 supermarkets in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.

Winn-Dixie runs about 480 grocery stores, including about 380 in-store pharmacies, in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi. It has about 46,000 employees.

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

“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,” said Bi-Lo Chairman Randall Onstead.

Winn-Dixie’s board has approved the deal, which is expected to close in the next 60 to 120 days.

The management structure and headquarters location have yet to be determined, but the companies anticipate keeping locations in both Greenville, S.C. and Jacksonville, Fla.

Winn-Dixie emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2006. In its most recent quarter, Winn-Dixie’s revenues rose 3 percent, but it posted a loss of about $24 million.

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