business news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

• The Seattle Times reports that supermarket employees in Washington State are scheduled to vote next Tuesday and Wednesday on a tentative contract deal that was reached between the three unions representing 20,000 employees and four chains - Safeway, QFC, Albertsons and Fred Meyer - just two hours before a strike deadline last Monday.

Bloomberg reports that Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in the western US has "won court approval of procedures for a Nov. 19 auction with the lead bid from an affiliate of billionaire Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Cos ... All potential buyers must submit an offer by Nov. 15. The company would hold the auction if it receives a competing qualified bid, followed by a Nov. 21 hearing to seek court approval of the auction winner.

"Under the proposed deal, a Tesco affiliate would lend the Yucaipa unit $120 million to help fund the acquisition, according to court papers. Tesco would get warrants to buy as much as 10 percent of the equity in the reorganized chain. Fresh & Easy would get 22.5 percent of the equity in the reorganized chain if the Yucaipa affiliate’s offer prevails. The Yucaipa buyer also has offered to take on some of Fresh & Easy’s liabilities. The liabilities are valued at about $130 million in court papers and may exceed $200 million."

• The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has ruled that "poultry processed in China can be sold in the United States. But first the birds must be born and raised in the U.S., Canada or Chile. Then they’re exported to China before being shipped back to the Americas."

However, the story also notes that "food-safety experts worry about the quality of chicken processed in a country notorious for avian influenza and food-borne illnesses. And they predict China will eventually seek to broaden the export rules to allow chickens born and raised there."

I hate it when I have knee-jerk reactions, but I cannot say that I'm thrilled by this, considering the food safety problems - many times from what appears to be negligence - that have plagued Chinese products. I'd certainly want to see on the label that the product had been processed there...because it might make me want to choose another product.

• Wakefern Food Corp. said yesterday that "the cooperative had reached a record sales level of $14.1 billion in retail sales for the fiscal year ending September 28, 2013, a 3.9 percent increase from the same period last year, and $11.4 billion in Wakefern consolidated sales. The cooperative opened ten new ShopRite stores, four new PriceRite stores and one new The Fresh Grocer store during the same period. In addition, the company expanded its ShopRite from Home services to 172 stores."

• The Columbus Dispatch reports that "Giant Eagle hopes to boost its standing in central Ohio starting next week, when it begins offering free prescription-drug delivery to customers’ homes ... Starting Monday, Giant Eagle will deliver prescriptions free within a 10-mile radius of each of its 22 central Ohio groceries with in-store pharmacies, said Anthony Mollica, vice president of pharmacy operations."

The story notes that while it is "the first time Giant Eagle has offered market-wide home-prescription delivery. However, Kroger has offered free home-prescription delivery from all 124 stores in its Columbus district for years, said spokeswoman Beth Wilkin."
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