Cerberus Seen As Acquiring Stake In SVU; Albertsons Banner May Be Part Of LLC

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And why did the original “total asset” acquisition plan fail?

We were told that Cerberus wanted to borrow money for the whole deal without putting up any of its own capital.

As one of our Wall Street insiders said: “Yes, even today with money being ‘cheap’ and a highly successful multi-billion dollar investment firm ready to acquire a troubled company – albeit one with many fixed assets – the banks made it clear that you must have some your own skin in the game. Apparently, Cerberus didn’t want to even put up the ante.”

So, if a deal does occur, priority number one is reportedly selling Acme, Shaw’s and Jewel. The potential Jewel play is somewhat surprising news, given that banner’s still dominant position in Chicago. However, one source told us to look past the Jewel’s past reputation and focus on current and future events.

“The possible sale of Jewel by Supervalu or Cerberus shouldn’t be that hard to believe. The deep dive may not have started as early as at Shaw’s or Acme’s, but for the past several years, overall sales have diminished sharply and ID sales continue to be awful. The Jewel situation is a microcosm of what’s been wrong with Supervalu for the past five years – aging, smaller stores, no significant cap-ex to improve infrastructure or real estate, vanilla marketing, out of touch pricing – although that has improved somewhat over the past several months – and poor corporate leadership. And then when you consider the new competition entering Chicagoland – Wal-Mart, Meijer, Roundy’s, etc. – it might be time to consider getting out of the market,” said our industry insider.

It would seem logical that Supervalu/Cerberus would like to find one buyer for all three troubled banners, but that might not be so easy, especially if the potential new organization is looking for a quick dump.

Viewing those individual banners, Kroger – which has the capital do such a deal, is already unionized and has a void in its nearly national grid in Chicago- would be a logical contender for Jewel.

As for Shaw’s and Acme, perhaps Ron Burkle/Yucaipa could cobble together a deal on the cheap for those distressed properties, but even Yucaipa would have store overlap problems in parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Of course, there’s always the auction or bloc sales process, which would yield fewer stores being sold, but likely a higher premium to be gained on a per unit basis.

We’re also told that, whileEden Prairiewill still be Supervalu’s headquarters, there will be a lot less emphasis on “centralization.” Miller, one of the toughest and smartest supermarket executives of the past 25 years, knows that giving increased power and control back to the divisions will only make them stronger and potentially more viable a for sale down the road.

As for Save-a-Lot, two of our sources told us that at this point (and contrary to other published reports), the extreme discount division is not for sale immediately, but – at the right price – could be moved.

That leaves Supervalu’s independent wholesale unit and its vast distribution and logistics network. We’re told that both of those pieces are running fine and we should expect the status quo to continue.

So, in essence, if our sources are correct, Supervalu will revert back to nearly the same model it had before its disastrous decision to overpay for the “crown jewels” of Albertsons.”