Harris Teeter, the upscale grocery chain headquartered in North Carolina, has confirmed that it has hired J.P. Morgan to assist it as it pursues strategic alternatives.
According to a Charlotte Observer report, two unnamed private equity firms approached Harris Teeter to determine management's interest in selling the company.
What company ultimately buys Teeter could determine its eventual fate.
RetailWire BrainTrust panelist David Livingston told the Observer, "I would expect one of the private equity retail morticians to put the company on life support and sell off all its organs."
Others think the grocery chain is more likely to be purchased by a competitor. A chain such as Publix, for example, already engaged in a northward push and starting to move into Teeter's territory, could use an acquisition to accelerate its expansion. Teeter currently operates stores in eight states and Washington, D.C.
Ahold and Kroger were mentioned as possible suitors in a Wall Street Journal article on Teeter's plans.
"We'll be consolidators in that we'll continue to buy assets, but I don't think it will be a clear strategy that we'll go out and buy the world," Kroger CEO David Dillon told the Journal.
How attractive an acquisition target is Harris Teeter?