Giant owner Royal Ahold acquiring Richmond-based Ukrop's grocery chain

By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 17, 2009; 7:42 PM

Royal Ahold, the Dutch conglomerate that owns Giant Food, announced Thursday that it is purchasing the Richmond-based supermarket chain Ukrop's Super Markets for $140 million.

The deal, which encompasses all inventory, equipment and leases agreements, will close in the first quarter of next year. Ahold spokesman Jochem van de Laarschot said the company plans to retain Ukrop's more than 5,000 employees.

Ukrop's was founded in 1937 and has remained privately held. The chain will become part of Ahold's Giant-Carlisle division based in Carlisle, Pa., which also includes the Martin's supermarkets in Virginia. Neither Giant-Carlisle nor Ukrop's are unionized, though workers in Giant stores in the Washington area are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Two Ukrop's stores are not included in the deal, and van de Laarschot said Ahold is offering those employees positions at other locations. It was still undecided whether the acquired stores would keep the Ukrop's name. A Ukrop's spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

The acquisition is an about-face from Ahold's position three years ago, when it announced plans to divest grocery chain Tops and food distributor U.S. Foodservice and some activist investors called for the company to shed all of its U.S. businesses. But Ahold executives say the company is on its way to recovery and said last month that it planned to seek out growth opportunities. Sales across the company rose 4.3 percent during the most recent quarter, and Giant Food stores have also recorded a string of positive sales after languishing for years.

"This acquisition is part of Ahold's profitable growth strategy," chief executive John Rishton said in a statement. "We believe that Giant-Carlisle and Ukrop's will be a strong combination."


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