By Ian Walker

 

Food retailers Delhaize Group (DELB.BT) and Koninklijke Ahold NV (AH.AE) have agreed to sell 86 U.S. stores to get U.S. Federal Trade Commission approval for their roughly $31 billion tie-up.

In a joint statement Thursday the companies said their U.S. subsidiaries have reached agreements with buyers, subject to FTC approval. The agreements are also subject to FTC clearance and formal completion of the merger, they said.

Delhaize and Ahold said earlier this week that they expect to complete their merger by the end of July, subject to FTC approval.

"Together, Ahold and Delhaize Group have been working hard to resolve the competition concerns raised by the FTC, and we are pleased to have found strong, well established buyers for the stores we are required to divest," Ahold Chief Executive Dick Boer said.

The stores being sold represent 4.1% of the combined companies' U.S. store count and 3.2% of U.S. net sales.

The companies announced their merger plan in June last year to create one of the largest grocery chains in the U.S. and Europe, with more than 6,500 stores and 375,000 employees. They hope that a combination will strengthen their buying clout and reduce costs as they grapple with competition from discounters and upscale chains on both continents.

Shareholders have approved the merger and the Belgian Competition Authority granted its conditional approval for the merger in March. FTC clearance is the final regulatory approval requirement for the merger to complete.

 

(Maarten van Tartwijk contributed to this article.)

 

-Write to Ian Walker at ian.walker@wsj.com; @IanWalk40289749

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 14, 2016 01:50 ET (05:50 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2016 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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