Parent Companies of Harris Teeter and Safeway Have Announced Deal to Merge

by MCS Staff

Kroger and Albertsons Companies have announced that they’ve entered an agreement that will merge the two companies. Kroger operates in Montgomery County as Harris Teeter while Albertsons operates as Safeway. Kroger will be acquiring Albertsons in the merger. Details surrounding the deal can be seen in the press release below:

Kroger (NYSE: KR) and Albertsons Companies, Inc. (NYSE: ACI) today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which the companies will merge two complementary organizations with iconic brands and deep roots in their local communities to establish a national footprint and unite around Kroger’s Purpose to Feed the Human Spirit. Through a family of well-known and trusted supermarket banners, this combination will expand customer reach and improve proximity to deliver fresh and affordable food to approximately 85 million households with a premier omnichannel experience.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, which has been unanimously approved by the board of directors of each company, Kroger will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Albertsons Companies, Inc. (“Albertsons Cos.”) common and preferred stock (on an as converted basis) for an estimated total consideration of $34.10 per share, implying a total enterprise value of approximately $24.6 billion, including the assumption of approximately $4.7 billion of Albertsons Cos. net debt. Subject to the outcome of a store divestiture process, the cash component of the $34.10 per share consideration may be reduced by the per share value of a newly created standalone public company (“SpinCo”) that Albertsons Cos. is prepared to spin off at closing in conjunction with the regulatory clearance process described further in the Transaction Details below. As part of the transaction, Albertsons Cos. will pay a special cash dividend of up to $4 billion to its shareholders. The cash component of the $34.10 per share consideration will be reduced by the per share amount of the special cash dividend, which is expected to be approximately $6.85 per share. This cash dividend will be payable on November 7, 2022, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on October 24, 2022.

The purchase price represents a premium of approximately 32.8% to the unaffected closing price of Albertsons Cos. common stock on October 12, 2022, and 29.7% to the 30-day volume-weighted average price.

Together, Albertsons Cos. and Kroger currently employ more than 710,000 associates and operate a total of 4,996 stores, 66 distribution centers, 52 manufacturing plants, 3,972 pharmacies and 2,015 fuel centers. The combination creates a premier seamless ecosystem across 48 states and the District of Columbia, providing customers with a best-in-class shopping experience across both stores and digital channels. Both Kroger and Albertsons Cos. are anchored by shared values focused on ensuring associates, customers and communities thrive. The combined company will drive profitable growth and sustainable value for all stakeholders.

Kroger has a long track record of lowering prices, improving the customer experience and investing in its associates and communities. Consistent with prior transactions, Kroger plans to invest in lowering prices for customers and expects to reinvest approximately half a billion dollars of cost savings from synergies to reduce prices for customers. An incremental $1.3 billion will also be invested into Albertsons Cos. stores to enhance the customer experience. Kroger will also build on its recent investments in associate wages, training and benefits. Kroger has invested an incremental $1.2 billion in associate compensation and benefits since 2018. The combined company expects to invest $1 billion to continue raising associate wages and comprehensive benefits after close.

“We are bringing together two purpose-driven organizations to deliver superior value to customers, associates, communities and shareholders,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, who will continue serving as Chairman and CEO of the combined company. “Albertsons Cos. brings a complementary footprint and operates in several parts of the country with very few or no Kroger stores. This merger advances our commitment to build a more equitable and sustainable food system by expanding our footprint into new geographies to serve more of America with fresh and affordable food and accelerates our position as a more compelling alternative to larger and non-union competitors. As a combined entity, we will be better positioned to advance Kroger’s successful go-to-market strategy by providing an incredible seamless shopping experience, expanding Our Brands portfolio, and delivering personalized value and savings. We’ll also be able to further enhance technology and innovation, promote healthier lifestyles, extend our health care and pharmacy network and grow our alternative profit businesses. We believe this transaction will lead to faster and more profitable growth and generate greater returns for our shareholders.”

Mr. McMullen added, “This transaction is a testament to the passion and commitment of both Albertsons Cos. and Kroger associates. Supporting and investing in our associates is foundational to both of our organizations and will continue to be a critical pillar of our success. Kroger has a track record of successful integrations that combine the strengths of each company while maintaining and enhancing each organizations’ distinctive banners and storied histories. As a combined company, we will build on our similar values to create a culture that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion and fosters a best-in-class associate experience by enabling, supporting and empowering our associates to unlock their full potential. Importantly, the merger secures union jobs and we will continue to work with local unions across America to serve our communities. We look forward to bringing the Albertsons Cos. and Kroger families together to create new and exciting career opportunities for associates.”

“We have been on a transformational journey to evolve Albertsons Cos. into a modern and efficient omnichannel food and drug retailer focused on building deep and lasting relationships with our customers and communities. I am proud of what our 290,000 associates have accomplished, delivering top-tier performance while furthering our purpose to bring people together around the joys of food and to inspire well-being. Today’s announcement is a testament to their success,” said Vivek Sankaran, CEO of Albertsons Cos.

“At Albertsons Cos., we are guided by an ambition to create customers for life. Together with Kroger, our combined iconic banners will be able to provide customers with even more value and greater access to fresh food and essential pharmacy services. Given the similarities in the culture and values at Kroger and Albertsons Cos., I am confident that the combination will also have a positive impact on our associates and the communities we are proud to serve. We look forward to working together with Kroger to capture the compelling opportunities ahead.”

“Today’s announcement marks the successful outcome of the Board-led review of strategic alternatives Albertsons Cos. announced in February,” said Chan Galbato, Co-Chair of the Albertsons Cos. Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of Cerberus Operations. “This transaction with Kroger provides substantial value to shareholders and exciting opportunities for associates to be part of a combined organization with the ability to better support the lives and health of millions of Americans.”

Accelerates Kroger’s Go-to-Market Strategy

The transaction is expected to advance Kroger’s strategy of Leading with Fresh, Accelerating with Digital and will enable the combined company to build on Kroger’s go-to-market strategy that includes Fresh, Our Brands, Personalization and Seamless. Kroger looks forward to bringing the best of Albertsons Cos.’ own omnichannel capabilities to more customers to improve the shopping experience.

  • Enables Kroger to Serve America with Fresher Food, Faster. Together, Kroger and Albertsons Cos. will have an expanded network of stores and distribution centers, as well as a broader supplier base. Utilizing Kroger’s End-to-End Fresh initiative across a broader network will enable the combined company to optimize its supply chain to deliver the freshest products from field to table to more customers more quickly. By bringing together Kroger’s Fresh for Everyone strategy and Albertsons Cos.’ Customers for Life strategy, the combined company will expand its portfolio of fresh products, extend shelf lives and accelerate the penetration of its Fresh portfolio.
  • Creates Broader Selection of Our Brands Products to Offer Customers Higher Quality and Better Value. At a time when people are increasingly shopping for groceries and eating at home, Kroger and Albertsons Cos. will be better positioned to relieve the inflationary pressures facing shoppers with a combined portfolio of approximately 34,000 total private label products across premium, natural and organic, and opening price point brands. Kroger and Albertsons Cos. have strong track records of providing quality products at great value. The combined company’s innovation capabilities, increased manufacturing footprint and expanded national reach will drive improved quality and efficiency allowing its Our Brands portfolio to accelerate growth and profitability while remaining affordable and accessible to customers.
  • Offers Customers Best-in-Class Personalized Experience. The combined company will be able to generate stronger customer insights and offer improved tailor-made experiences. With a customer base of approximately 85 million households, the combined company will have one of the most comprehensive first-party data repositories in the food and retail space and will be able to use Kroger’s leading data science capabilities to develop an even more compelling retail loyalty program. The combined company will provide an unmatched customer experience by offering more relevant recommendations and promotions to save customers time and money. More customers will benefit from Kroger’s data analytics by receiving personalized recommendations for healthier alternatives to products customers love as part of Kroger’s Food as Medicine initiative.
  • Delivers an Enhanced Seamless Customer Experience Requiring Zero Compromise. The combined company will benefit from shared operational learnings across both large and small store formats, a more extensive and efficient distribution network of customer fulfillment facilities and capabilities, and an expanded pickup footprint. By bringing together Kroger and Albertsons Cos.’ technology, infrastructure, and digital and delivery service providers into a single seamless ecosystem, the combined company will be able to offer customers a more personalized and convenient omnichannel experience including in-store shopping, enhanced pickup capabilities, faster delivery times, and more capabilities to serve the customer anything, anytime, anywhere with zero compromise on quality, selection and affordability.
  • Powers Continued Progress Toward Shared ESG Initiatives. Both companies have ambitious sustainability programs and a range of initiatives focused on responsible corporate stewardship, including those focused on increasing workforce diversity and fighting food insecurity. By joining forces, the combined company will be better positioned to advance a comprehensive ESG strategy focused on Kroger and Albertsons Cos.’ shared mission to support the communities they serve and pursue a more sustainable future. The addition of Albertsons Cos.’ sustainability program and resources will accelerate progress on Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste social and environmental impact plan to create a more equitable and sustainable food system.

Strengthens Kroger’s Value Creation Model To Deliver Enhanced Returns

  • Grows Core Business to Power Value Creation Flywheel. The addition of Albertsons Cos.’ portfolio expands Kroger’s core supermarket, fuel, and pharmacy businesses, bolstering the combined company’s ability to drive additional traffic into stores and digital channels. The increase in customer traffic and data will in turn power the combined company’s higher-growth, higher-margin alternative profit businesses to support continued reinvestment in the business. On a combined basis, the companies delivered approximately $210 billion in revenue, $3.3 billion in net earnings, and $11.6 billion of adjusted EBITDA in fiscal year 20211.
  • Expands National Reach to Accelerate Alternative Profit Businesses Like Retail Media. The combined company will be able to reach an expanded national audience of approximately 85 million households nationwide, fueling growth in alternative profit businesses such as Retail Media, Kroger Personal Finance, and Customer Insights. With an expanded footprint and the addition of the recently launched Albertsons Cos. Media Collective, Kroger will enhance its services to media clients and provide more targeted, sophisticated solutions. The combined capabilities will accelerate the growth of Kroger’s higher-margin revenue streams by extending the portfolio of solutions and accelerating their respective growth.
  • Provides Significant Synergies to Reinvest in Customer and Associate Benefits. The combined company expects to achieve approximately $1 billion of annual run-rate synergies net of divestitures within the first four years of combined operations with approximately 50% being achieved within the first two years following close. The companies expect to achieve synergies largely through improved sourcing, optimization of manufacturing and distribution networks, and technology investment amplification opportunities.
  • Creates Path to Deliver Enhanced Total Shareholder Returns (TSR): The combination creates a more resilient business model, with a devoted customer base and strong cash flows, that during the first four years post close is expected to deliver TSR well above Kroger’s standalone TSR model of 8 – 11%. Kroger expects the transaction to be accretive to earnings in the first year following close, and double digit accretive to earnings by year four, excluding one-time costs. Consistent with its long-term commitment to returning cash to shareholders, Kroger intends to continue paying its quarterly dividend and expects to raise its dividend over time, subject to Board approval, while managing free cash flow to reduce leverage.

Transaction Details

In connection with obtaining the requisite regulatory clearance necessary to consummate the transaction, Kroger and Albertsons Cos. expect to make store divestitures. As described in the merger agreement and subject to the outcome of the divestiture process, Albertsons Cos. is prepared to establish an Albertsons Cos. subsidiary (SpinCo). SpinCo would be spun-off to Albertsons Cos. shareholders immediately prior to merger closing and operate as a standalone public company. Kroger and Albertsons Cos. have agreed to work together to determine which stores would comprise SpinCo, as well as the pro forma capitalization of SpinCo. The establishment of SpinCo, which is estimated to comprise between 100 and 375 stores, would create a new, agile competitor with quality stores, experienced management, operational flexibility, a strong balance sheet, and focused allocation of capital and resources to provide customers with continued value and quality service and associates with ongoing compelling career opportunities.

1 Based on combined results for each company’s most recent fiscal year, respectively. Pro forma results as presented in this press release represent the combined Kroger and Albertsons Cos. FY 2021 results and are not intended to represent pro forma financials under Section 11 of Regulation S-X under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. See the Appendix for a reconciliation of historical non-GAAP measures.

Kroger and Albertsons Cos. will provide additional detail regarding SpinCo prior to closing.

The per share cash purchase price payable to Albertsons Cos. shareholders in the merger would be reduced by an amount equal to (i) three times four-wall adjusted EBITDA for the stores contributed to SpinCo divided by the number of Albertsons Cos. common shares (including common shares issuable upon conversion of Albertsons Cos.’ preferred stock) outstanding as of the record date for the spin-off plus (ii) the per share amount of a special pre-closing cash dividend of up to $4 billion payable to Albertsons Cos. shareholders, which is expected to be approximately $6.85 per share. This cash dividend is expected to be payable on November 7, 2022, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on October 24, 2022.

Kroger has $17.4 billion of fully committed bridge financing in place from Citi and Wells Fargo. At closing, the Company plans to fund the transaction using a combination of cash on hand and proceeds from new debt financing. Kroger expects to continue to have a solid balance sheet supported by strong free cash flow of the combined business.

Kroger has engaged with the rating agencies and is strongly committed to an investment grade credit rating. Kroger has already paused its share repurchase program to prioritize de-leveraging following the merger to achieve its net leverage target of 2.5x EBITDA in the first 18 – 24 months post close.

Following the close of the transaction, Rodney McMullen will continue to serve as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and Gary Millerchip will continue to serve as Chief Financial Officer of the combined company.

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3 comments

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Richard Prell October 15, 2022 - 9:47 am

Article lists only two of the properties of the companies operating in MoCo. Albertsons also has Balduccis in Bethesda.

Reply
M K October 21, 2022 - 3:57 pm

Even worse.

This should not be allowed to happen. It would leave the company with a monopoly in mainstream supermarkets in so many communities. And the whole idea of forcing them to divest certain stores isn’t enough, because the stores they divested would just get crushed by their monopoly, still leaving a monopoly but then with fewer stores. I saw that happen when Albertson’s bought Safeway and they were forced to sell certain properties. In the city where I lived before, Albertson’s sold one location it had owned. The store couldn’t compete with the Albertson’s monopoly in town and ended up shutting down, leaving just Albertson’s.

No way should this be allowed.

Reply
Kat October 18, 2022 - 5:10 am

The biggest problem I see with this is them creating a monopoly. There are only 2 grocery stores near us. Safeway and King Soopers. This merger would mean we would no longer have a choice in where we shop. This should not be allowed.

Reply

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