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    Report: Publix Possibly Interested in Buying Bruno's, Bi-Lo

    LAKELAND, Fla. - Publix Super Markets Inc. has expressed interest in sister supermarket chains Bruno's and Bi-Lo, which were recently put up for sale by Royal Ahold, according to a report in the Lakeland Ledger.

    LAKELAND, Fla. - Publix Super Markets Inc. has expressed interest in sister supermarket chains Bruno's and Bi-Lo, which were recently put up for sale by Royal Ahold, according to a report in the Lakeland Ledger.

    Publix spokesman Lee Brunson told the newspaper on Thursday that the company generally doesn't comment on purchases or acquisitions. However, he noted that a strong growth plan has been under way for years for Publix. "And we are still on that target," he said.

    "It would be too soon to speculate," he said when asked about the possibility of Publix looking at the offerings. "But certainly, we would be looking at them."

    Ordinarily Publix would not discuss a potential buy at all, Brunson said. "But they made it public," he said referring to Royal Ahold's announcement that it intends to sell the supermarkets.

    "We certainly would be interested in looking at those," he said.

    Both chains would expand Publix' operations in five states, and would move it into two new states: Mississippi and North Carolina.

    The company's growth plan, which was announced in 2001, included the goal of opening 340 new stores in the next five years. Publix now has 803 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, as well as Tennessee. The company would have 185 left to add if it is to meet its goal, according to the report. The two chains up for sale make a total of 470 stores.

    Royal Ahold announced Feb. 11 it intends to find a buyer for Birmingham, Ala.-based Bruno's and Mauldin, S.C.-based Bi-Lo to "strengthen its financial position by reducing debt."

    In other Publix-related news, the retailer announced Thursday it now offers weekly advertisements previously found only in newspapers on its Web site, at www.publix.com/ads, according to the Lakeland Ledger.

    "We've had a number of customers asking to view our ads online, and many other retailers offer this feature," spokesman Lee Brunson said in a statement. "The time is right for us to offer this type of service to customers."

    Customers can enter their zip code or city and find an advertisement specific to their nearby Publix location. The site allows customers to browse the weekly advertisements page by page, to see all the items listed. They can also check out the advertisements by category or by keyword search, Brunson said.

    Spanish advertisements will be available online for those areas now receiving Spanish print ads, he added.

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