Safeway in discussions to sell company




Local angle

Safeway is one of Clark County’s largest and longest-tenured grocers, with nine stores in the Vancouver area, plus stores in Camas, Washougal, Battle Ground, Woodland and Jantzen Beach, Ore.

Safeway, the nation's second-largest supermarket chain, said Wednesday it is in discussions to sell the company.

The announcement comes after months of downsizing, as Safeway sold its stores in Canada and shed 72 Dominick's stores in the Chicago area. Safeway also said it plans to distribute its remaining 37.8 million shares of the Blackhawk gift-card business — which the Pleasanton, Calif., company spun off last year - to investors. And the retailer is discussing ways monetize its 49 percent ownership in Mexican retailer Casa Ley, the fifth-largest food and general merchandise retailer in Mexico.

The grocer, with 12 locations in Clark County, announced talks of the possible sale in a news release before a call with investors to discuss the company's fourth-quarter earnings. It declined to name the potential buyer or other details about the deal.

"The company has not reached an agreement on a transaction, and there can be no assurance that these discussions will lead to an agreement or a completed transaction," Safeway said in the news release.

In October, New York-based Cerberus Capital Management was believed to have led a group of private equity firms in a plan to take over Safeway, which operates about 1,400 stores across the country. Safeway would not confirm that buyout bid, but sources said at that time that Safeway officials were in talks with financial adviser Goldman Sachs. And analysts predicted the grocer could be headed for a merger with grocery competitor Albertsons — which is owned by Cerberus - and may soon go private.

In the days and weeks following that news, Safeway executives began cashing in stock, some selling hundreds of thousands of shares for several million dollars over the span of just a few days.

For the fourth quarter of 2013, Safeway reported $11.3 billion in revenue, up slightly from $11.2 billion for the same three-month period last year.