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Safeway CFO Robert Edwards reportedly told a financial conference yesterday that increased consolidation in the food retailing business could point the way to Safeway looking for acquisition opportunities.

Safeway has been highly focused in recent years on remodeling its existing stores to a “Lifestyle” format that is more focused on fresh and prepared foods, as well as an expanded organics selection that includes its “O” private label.

Among the recent deals to which Edwards was referring were Whole Foods’ purchase of Wild Oats, and A&P’s acquisition of Pathmark.
KC's View:
One has to assume that virtually every major food retailer is looking around to see where the acquisition opportunities are. And if they’re not buying, they may be selling.

We could probably get a pretty good lottery going on whether, for example, Ahold will be a buyer or a seller (no matter what they say at headquarters). And whether Safeway will make a big purchase before Safeway.

Now, one thing has to be pointed out. If Safeway does make a move, it will be interesting to see if the level of enlightenment that it has brought to its Lifestyle stores and he healthcare issue can be applied to whatever company it might buy. Safeway executives are as aware as anyone that the company has a, shall we say, checkered track record when it comes to acquisitions. Genuardi’s, anyone? Dominick’s?

It’ll be a challenge. And worth watching.