Report: Parent co. looks to sell Sweetbay chain
TAMPA - Delhaize Group, the parent company of Sweetbay, is looking to sell the supermarket chain, according to a published report.
But Sweetbay stores will operate as usual until and beyond when new ownership is found, a spokeswoman at Sweetbay's Tampa headquarters said.
“It is business as usual, and we expect that to continue under the Delhaize Group ownership or someone else,” spokeswoman Nicole LeBeau said.
“Sweetbay closed 33 nonprofitable stores in January, but there are 72 strong stores in business today,” she said.
A Reuters report, citing unnamed sources, said the Belgium-based Delhaize has hired Lazard Ltd. to sell Sweetbay as well as its Harvey's grocery chain.
Chief Executive Officer Pierre-Olivier Beckers, at Delhaize's shareholders meeting in Brussels, declined to comment to Reuters on whether advisers had been appointed to conduct a sale.
Local officials deferred official confirmation of the potential sale to the Delhaize Group.
Sweetbay is part of a collection of grocery brands owned by Delhaize that operates 3,400 stores in 11 countries. In the United States, that includes 1,500 stores under the brands Food Lion, Harvey's, Bottom Dollar, Reid's and Hannaford.
There were 105 Sweetbay stores in Florida at the end of 2012. In January, Delhaize said it would close 33 “underperforming” locations as part of a broader reorganization plan aimed at improving the company's results in the United States.
In Florida, Sweetbay faces competition from much larger rivals. Publix operates 1,066 stores in five states, and Wal-Mart has taken large shares of the grocery market, while Target has also expanded to offer fresh groceries.
The Sweetbay brand has only been around since 2004, when the Delhaize Group started dropping the name Kash N' Karry – a group of stores it purchased in 1996 – finishing the transition to Sweetbay in August 2007.
Tribune reporter Richard Mullins contributed to this report.