NEWS WATCH: GRAND JURY INVESTIGATES COUGHLIN CASE...HEARING SET FOR WINN-DIXIE LEASE REJECTIONS...DELHAIZE ENTERS $500 MILLION CREDIT FACILITY...

GRAND JURY INVESTIGATES COUGHLIN CASE nd jury here is investigating allegations that former Wal-Mart Stores Vice Chairman Thomas Coughlin fraudulently spent up to $500,000 in company funds, a spokeswoman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer confirmed. Legal proceedings against Coughlin have moved swiftly since Wal-Mart voluntarily turned over evidence implicating Coughlin to the U.S. Attorney's

GRAND JURY INVESTIGATES COUGHLIN CASE

nd jury here is investigating allegations that former Wal-Mart Stores Vice Chairman Thomas Coughlin fraudulently spent up to $500,000 in company funds, a spokeswoman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer confirmed. Legal proceedings against Coughlin have moved swiftly since Wal-Mart voluntarily turned over evidence implicating Coughlin to the U.S. Attorney's Office in late March. At the time, Coughlin resigned from the board, and was stripped of salary and benefits that would have continued for two more years under a non-compete agreement. Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, the Washington-based law firm representing Coughlin, could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Arkansas declined comment. Steven Wisebram, a former federal prosecutor now specializing in white-collar crime with Atlanta law firm Finch McCranie, said it is unlikely that Coughlin will testify at this point.

HEARING SET FOR WINN-DIXIE LEASE REJECTIONS

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A request by Winn-Dixie Stores to extend the deadline for assuming or rejecting its store leases is scheduled for a hearing at U.S. Bankruptcy Court here this week. The hearing will mark a resumption of proceedings of the retailer's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, which was transferred here from New York. A judge will also hear a motion filed by a landlord, Cane River Associates, seeking to reject Winn-Dixie leases at its properties as of the petition date. Winn-Dixie will also ask for approval of its previously announced plan to sell three Virginia stores to Food Lion, court papers said. Winn-Dixie has completed an internal review and expects to shortly begin working on a reorganization plan with creditors, according to reports. A "new footprint" created by an ability to reject leases is expected to be part of the plan, and by law should have been completed within 60 days of the Chapter 11 filing, which in this case was April 22. Winn-Dixie sought an extension through September, saying it needs time to decide which stores to retain.

DELHAIZE ENTERS $500 MILLION CREDIT FACILITY

SALISBURY, N.C. -- Delhaize America here has entered a new $500 million borrowing facility, its Belgian-based parent company said last week. The new package replaces a $350 million credit facility set to expire in July. Delhaize America, which operates the Food Lion, Sweetbay, Harvey's, Kash n' Karry and Hannaford banners, said it would use the facility to provide backup for seasonal working capital needs and for general corporate purposes. The lead arranger was JP Morgan Securities, New York.

NODDLE AMONG SPEAKERS AT CIES BUSINESS SUMMIT

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jeff Noddle, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Supervalu, is scheduled to speak at the CIES World Food Business Summit in Budapest, Hungary, next month. Noddle, who was scheduled to be introduced yesterday as the new chairman of Food Marketing Institute, Washington, will present a program called "How a major retailer is rethinking its business to secure a long-term future" on Friday, June 24. Other retail presenters at the conference, which begins June 22, include James W. Keyes, president and CEO, 7-Eleven; Renaud Cogels, president and CEO, Delhaize Europe; and Tony DeNunzio, president and CEO, Asda/Wal-Mart U.K. For more information, see www.ciesnet.com.

CALIFORNIA IN-STORE BANKS HIT BY ROBBERIES

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A string of robberies in Northern California last month called attention to security of in-store bank branches, according to local reports. As the result of one robbery at a Raleys in Pittsburg late last month, a police officer was wounded and was reported in critical condition. Meanwhile, in Santa Cruz County, authorities are looking for a female bank robber who targets supermarket bank branches.