Harris Teeter exploring options: sources

Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:55am IST

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(Reuters) - Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc HTSI.N is exploring strategic options including a possible sale, two sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The company, which has a market capitalization of over $1.8 billion, is being advised by JP Morgan, said the sources, who declined to be named because the process is confidential.

Harris Teeter was not immediately available. JP Morgan declined to comment.

Shares of the company, which operates some 200 stores in eight states in the southeastern U.S., closed up $2.46, or 6.6 percent, at $39.50 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Large grocery chains like Kroger Co (KR.N), Publix Super Markets Inc (PUSH.PK) and Koninklijke Ahold NV (AHLN.AS) are likely to take a look at Harris Teeter, the two sources said.

Regional supermarkets like Harris Teeter are struggling to maintain market share against major chains and mass merchandisers like Costo Wholesale Corp (COST.O) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), which is leading to consolidation in the industry.

Last year, natural grocers Sprouts Farmers Market and Sunflower Farmers Market announced a merger of the two companies to compete against Whole Foods and Trader Joe's on the West Coast.

In late 2011, Bi-Lo agreed to buy Winn-Dixie Stores for around $560 million to merge two Southern regional grocery chains.

News of the Harris Teeter process was earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller and Olivia Oran in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz, Bernard Orr)