SYRACUSE, NY-Possible suitors for the Penn Traffic Co.’s 107 supermarkets could be Albertsons and Kroger because it would give both companies an opportunity to grow in the New York and Pennsylvania markets, according to one analyst. “These guys are big,” says Mitchell Corwin, an equity analyst who covers supermarkets and other retail sectors at Chicago-based Morningstar. “They have the resources.”The Penn Traffic Co. is postponing a court hearing scheduled for today on its Chapter 11 reorganization plan because of “multiple compelling proposals” for a sale-leaseback transaction involving its grocery store chains, which include BiLo Foods, P&C Foods and Quality Markets, as well as some of its distribution properties. Locally-based Penn Traffic did not reveal what companies are interested. A company spokesman was not available for comment on the issue, representatives from Albertsons and Kroger would also not comment.Not only could Albertsons and Kroger gain market share in the Northeast, but it’s a cheaper way to enter center regions, Corwin says. “They’ve seen better returns on stores they’ve been buying rather than building,” he says.Albertsons, based in Boise, ID has acquired two chains this year, the 206-store Shaw’s in New England and 11 Bristol Farms units in California. Late last year, Penn Traffic had planned to sell 11 stores in its former Big Bear chain to Cincinnati-based Kroger, but the company sold those units to other firms instead.Penn Traffic filed for Chapter 11 in May of 2003. At the time, company officials said they were filing because of a struggling supermarket sector due to a “weak economy, a decrease in consumer confidence, a lack of food inflation and the increased penetration of the retail food industry by alternative channels of trade, such as supercenters and limited assortment stores.”

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