Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. has entered into definitive agreements with Bi-Lo Holdings and Harris Teeter Supermarkets to sell 29 of its stores. Bi-Lo Holdings plans to purchase 22 stores in South Carolina and coastal Georgia. Harris Teeter expects to purchase seven South Carolina stores, one of which is under construction. Financial terms of the transactions were not disclosed. Both deals are expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2013 subject to customary closing conditions.
The stores that Bi-Lo plans to acquire will be rebranded under the Bi-Lo banner name. Through the transaction, Bi-Lo says it will welcome approximately 1,200 Piggly Wiggly employees.
“We look forward to welcoming new associates in good standing to the Bi-Lo Holdings family and to building on the strength of these stores,” Randall Onstead, president and CEO of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Bi-Lo Holdings, says in a company announcement.
“Piggly Wiggly has an outstanding reputation, and the efforts of their talented associates have played a key role in making these stores such an important part of the communities they serve,” he adds. “We look forward to meeting with our new associates, exchanging ideas and working together to run great stores. We are committed to making this transition as seamless as possible for Piggly Wiggly associates.”
Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. President and CEO David Schools says, ”The departure of employees and stores from the Piggly Wiggly team will be acutely felt, but we know that both Harris Teeter and Bi-Lo will benefit from these outstanding folks. We are glad that all store employees affected by this transaction will have the opportunity to work for Harris Teeter and Bi-Lo, and guests will continue to be served by the familiar people who have been the backbone of these stores for years.”
Bi-Lo Holdings says the acquisition is another important step in the execution of the company’s long-term strategy. It says it will continue to fine-tune the business and its network of stores in order to reinvest in the company, which operates under the Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie banner.
“This agreement will build on the strength of our Bi-Lo stores in South Carolina and coastal Georgia and allow us to provide the freshest foods and the best deals to a broader customer base,” Onstead says. “Customers will not see any change to the level of quality they have come to expect from Bi-Lo, Winn-Dixie or Piggly Wiggly.”
Until the transaction is finalized, the Piggly Wiggly stores that are part of the proposed acquisition will continue to operate as part of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. and will remain separate from Bi-Lo Holdings. In the interim, Bi-Lo Holdings says it has appointed a dedicated team to work through the details of the transaction.
“We have assembled a cross-functional team to manage the transition process,” Onstead says. “Our objective is to establish a team that is 100 percent focused on the integration of the acquired business, enabling the rest of us to continue to focus on our day-to-day business objectives.
“Between now and the completion of this transaction, it remains business as usual for all Bi-Lo, Winn-Dixie and Piggly Wiggly operations,” he says.
Bi-Lo Holdings is the ninth-largest conventional supermarket chain in the U.S. based on net sales. The company employs nearly 60,000 associates who serve customers in 686 grocery stores and 482 in-store pharmacies throughout the eight southeastern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Stores involved in proposed in deal
Sixteen of the Piggly Wiggly stores that Bi-Lo Holdings intends to purchase are in South Carolina and six are in Georgia:
• 3386 Railroad Ave., Bamberg, S.C.
• 50 Burnt Church Rd., Bluffton, S.C.
• 445 Meeting St., Charleston, S.C.
• 630 Skylark Dr., Charleston, S.C.
• 136 South Main St., Clover, S.C.
• 4711-1 Forest Dr., Columbia, S.C.
• 104 Jungle Rd., Edisto Beach, S.C.
• 3353 Highway 72/221 East, Greenwood, S.C.
• 3575 Maybank Highway, Johns Island, S.C.
• 9616 Highway 78, Ladson, S.C.
• 760 Highway 378, Lexington, S.C.
• 4360 Augusta Rd., Lexington, S.C.
• 208 East McIntyre St., Mullins, S.C.
• 115 Willbrook Blvd., Pawleys Island, S.C.
• 518 North Wheeler Ave., Prosperity, S.C.
• 615 Harry C Raysor Dr. South, St. Matthews, S.C.
• 1338 North Way, Darien, Ga.
• 4415 Augusta St., Garden City, Ga.
• 312 South Main St., Glennville, Ga.
• 1042 US Highway 80 West, Pooler, Ga.
• 2142 East Victory Dr., Savannah, Ga.
• 7360 Skidaway Rd., Savannah, Ga.
It’s unclear if Bi-Lo will close any of the stores involved in the deal. The company reports that it’s premature to speculate and that “there are still many details to work through.”
“…We will continue to base our operational decisions on market demand and the needs of our business,” Onstead says.
Piggly Wiggly Carolina will keep distribution centers
Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. operates two distribution centers, each in Charleston, but they are not being sold in the transaction. Bi-Lo Holdings says it expects its current distribution system, operated by C&S Wholesale, to support the additional supply volume.
Bi-Lo Holdings’ Store Support Center will continue to operate out of Jacksonville.
Transaction related to rumored IPO?
Recent published reports indicate that privately owned Bi-Lo Holdings, which acquired Winn-Dixie last year and moved its headquarters from Greenville, S.C., to Jacksonville, is looking at the possibility of going public.
The timing of the Piggly Wiggly announcement has led some to wonder if the pending purchase may somehow be connected to a possible initial public offering.
“As you know, it is company policy not to comment on rumor,” Onstead says in the company announcement. “We and our financial sponsor, Lone Star Funds, are continually exploring ways to add value to our company, but not all exploratory activities lead to action plans. If and when there is ever a definitive decision of this magnitude, we will do our very best to make sure you—our associates—hear it from us first.”
Matthews, N.C.-based Harris Teeter plans to purchase seven stores in the Palmetto State from Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co.:
• 1220 Ben Sawyer Blvd., Mt. Pleasant.
• 1981 Riviera Dr., Mt. Pleasant.
• 1739 Maybank Highway, James Island.
• 1985 Folly Rd., Folly Beach.
• 1005 Harborview Rd., James Island.
• 130 Gardeners Cir., Johns Island.
• 1505 Palm Blvd., Isle of Palms (under construction).
Thomas W. Dickson, chairman of the board for Harris Teeter and the company’s CEO, says, “Piggly Wiggly has a long tradition of operating customer-friendly stores in Charleston. These store locations and the dedicated associates who work in them make this an especially attractive transaction for Harris Teeter. We plan to remodel and expand a number of these locations to create brand new Harris Teeter stores to serve our customers. Charleston is a growing and vibrant market, and we look forward to continuing to expand our presence in the region.”
Harris Teeter currently is in the process of selling its more than 200 stores to The Kroger Co. for approximately $2.5 billion. Harris Teeter shareholders are expected to vote on the deal, first announced in July, on Oct. 3.
Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. was founded in Charleston, S.C., in 1947. It currently has more than 3,000 employee owners. In a news release in June, Piggly Wiggly Carolina said it had “nearly 100 stores.” It’s unclear, however, exactly how many stores the company will be left with following the Bi-Lo and Harris Teeter deals.