NEWS WATCH: KROGER, UNION SPLIT ON WAGES IN CINCINNATI...PEAPOD NOW SELLING WILD OATS-BRANDED PRODUCTS...PENN TRAFFIC POSTPONES DISCLOSURE HEARING AGAIN

KROGER, UNION SPLIT ON WAGES IN CINCINNATIood and Commercial Workers Local 1099 in a marathon bargaining session last week reached tentative agreements on health care and pension, but wages remained a dividing issue as negotiations were set to resume late last week, the union said. According to a posting on the Local 1099 Web site, "The Union is frustrated by Kroger's stonewalling and its refusal

KROGER, UNION SPLIT ON WAGES IN CINCINNATI

ood and Commercial Workers Local 1099 in a marathon bargaining session last week reached tentative agreements on health care and pension, but wages remained a dividing issue as negotiations were set to resume late last week, the union said. According to a posting on the Local 1099 Web site, "The Union is frustrated by Kroger's stonewalling and its refusal to be more forthcoming on wages." Local 1099 represents about 8,500 employees in 70 Kroger stores in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Its contract expired Oct. 9 but has been extended by mutual agreement as negotiations continue. The union has authorized a strike if necessary.

PEAPOD NOW SELLING WILD OATS-BRANDED PRODUCTS

CHICAGO -- More than 200 Wild Oats-branded natural and organic products are now available for online shopping and delivery through Peapod here, the companies said last week. Natural foods retailer Wild Oats Markets, Boulder, Colo., said in August that it would introduce branded store departments in select Stop & Shop stores and online through Peapod. Both Peapod and Stop & Shop are owned by Ahold USA, Quincy, Mass. Wild Oats operates two stores in the Chicago area, and Peapod will allow for a greater availability of its private-label products, said Perry Odak, president and chief executive officer of Wild Oats, in a statement. Three to five in-store Wild Oats departments at Stop & Shop are expected to open later this year or early next year.

PENN TRAFFIC POSTPONES DISCLOSURE HEARING AGAIN

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Penn Traffic here last week said it postponed the hearing on the disclosure statement for its bankruptcy reorganization plan. The company said it is continuing to review proposals for a sale-leaseback transaction involving most of its owned stores and distribution centers, and it is pursuing entering such an agreement within the next few weeks. A sale-leaseback transaction would have a significant impact on its capital structure, the company said. This is the second time the hearing has been postponed. A date for a new hearing has not been set.

NASH FINCH SEEKS TO REFINANCE CREDIT FACILITY

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nash Finch here said it plans to refinance its existing senior secured credit facility maturing in 2005, and use the proceeds to redeem $165 million in notes and prepay outstanding balances under the existing facility. The company said the moves would enable it to "significantly reduce" its interest expense. Nash Finch said if it were unable to obtain a replacement credit facility in the amount currently anticipated, the redemption of the notes would be reduced accordingly. It anticipates closing on a replacement facility and redeeming the notes, in whole or in part, before the end of 2004.

WHOLE FOODS PLANS BIGGER STORES IN LONDON

AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market here plans to open three or four full-sized supermarkets in downtown London, according to a report in the Financial Times last week. The natural and organic retailer, which earlier this year acquired Fresh & Wild, a 10-store natural food chain operating relatively small stores in the United Kingdom, previously said it planned to add larger stores in the country. It did not indicate where they would be located. The company is scouting upscale neighborhoods in the Hampstead, Notting Hill and Fulham areas, according to the Times article. The company reportedly will use its Whole Foods banner on the stores, which will measure about 40,000 square feet.