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Will Publix Bi-Lo

February 23, 2004

By George Anderson

It's not saying yes and it's not saying no, but Publix Super Markets may be among the bidders for Bi-lo and Bruno's now that Ahold has announced its intention to sell off the two Southeastern U.S. grocery store chains.

Publix spokesman Lee Brunson told The Ledger, "Certainly, we would be looking at them. It's just too early to speculate now."

Chuck Gilmer, editor of The Shelby Report, said Publix wouldn't be the only name mentioned in connection with buying the chains. "Obviously, everybody's a suspect now," he said. "Everybody and anybody. But if you're looking at geographically filling in the marketing areas, that deal would make sense for Publix."

In 2001, Publix announced an expansion plan with a target of 340 new stores to be opened over a five-year period. The chain has since opened 155 stores.

Bi-Lo and Bruno's have 470 stores combined and span five states in which Publix currently does business (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee) as well as two others (North Carolina and Mississippi) the employed-owned supermarket chain has yet to enter.

Cincinnati-based Kroger has been identified as a possible buyer for Bruno's and Bi-Lo largely because of its strong presence in Georgia.

Moderator's Comment: Are Bi-Lo and Bruno's a good fit to become part of Publix? How do you see the Bi-Lo and Bruno's sale going?

Frankly, we'd be surprised to see one big deal made to acquire the two chains from Ahold.

State geography makes sense from the Publix standpoint, but we're not certain about the actual store sites. Publix has built its success on service and selection while seeking to remain competitive on price. Many of the Bi-Lo stores and Bruno's may serve consumers that are more price-obsessed than the typical Publix shopper.

Publix is also reported to be considering purchasing a number of the Kash 'n Karry locations in central Florida being vacated by the Delhaize chain. - George Anderson - Moderator

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