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    Report Claims Albertson's $9.6 Billion Deal Close to Closing

    BOISE, Idaho -- With its board reportedly expected to meet last night, Albertson's Inc. here appeared close to being sold to the consortium of retailers and financial buyers that had tried once and failed to close a deal for the chain for roughly $9.6 billion.

    BOISE, Idaho -- With its board reportedly expected to meet last night, Albertson's Inc. here appeared close to being sold to the consortium of retailers and financial buyers that had tried once and failed to close a deal for the chain for roughly $9.6 billion.

    The Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site Sunday evening that a deal could close as early as today, according to unnamed sources "familiar with the matter."

    A similar deal, however, collapsed at the last minute in December.

    The Wall Street Journal said the current deal on the table would have Supervalu acquiring most of the maeg-chain's supermarkets, while drug chain CVS Corp. would buy Albertson's freestanding pharmacies.

    Final terms of the new deal were expected to roughly mirror the ones that the board turned down in December, with the significant exception that Albertson's buyers would assume any antitrust risk involving Chicago-area stores, a sticking point that helped unwind a previous deal, said the Wall Street Journal's sources.

    News of the revived deal broke late last week, and moved Albertsons' shares up 24 cents to $24.11 at Friday's close.

    The chain's board said then that after reviewing the new proposal from the consortium of investors, which again includes Minneapolis-based Supervalu, it authorized management and its representatives to reenter into negotiations. Not, surprisingly, the company emphasized that there can be no assurances that any transaction will occur as a result of these negotiations, or if one does occur, its terms or timing.

    Albertsons' divisions and subsidiaries operate approximately 2,500 stores in 37 states across the U.S. and employ approximately 240,000 associates. Its banners include Albertsons, Acme, Shaw's, Jewel-Osco, Sav-on Drugs, Osco Drug, and Star Markets, as well as Super Saver and Bristol Farms, which are operated independently.

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