NEWS WATCH: KROGER, WORKERS AGREE TO EXTEND TEXAS CONTRACT...SAFEWAY DEBUTS NEW 'FRESH' PROTOTYPE IN MARYLAND...SHOPPING CENTERS AT RISK FROM WAL-MART: REPORT

KROGER, WORKERS AGREE TO EXTEND TEXAS CONTRACTited Food and Commercial Workers Union here have agreed to extend their contract with Kroger, Cincinnati, through April 24 and day to day thereafter while negotiations continue, according to the UFCW. The contract, which was set to expire over the weekend, covers more than 10,000 workers. A federal mediator is assisting in the negotiations. Meanwhile,

KROGER, WORKERS AGREE TO EXTEND TEXAS CONTRACT

ited Food and Commercial Workers Union here have agreed to extend their contract with Kroger, Cincinnati, through April 24 and day to day thereafter while negotiations continue, according to the UFCW. The contract, which was set to expire over the weekend, covers more than 10,000 workers. A federal mediator is assisting in the negotiations. Meanwhile, Kroger's UFCW contract in the Louisville, Ky., market, which covers almost 10,000 workers, was set to expire April 10. Health care is the major issue in both regions, a UFCW spokeswoman told SN. On the Web site of UFCW Local 227, Louisville, the unions described the negotiations as "the most challenging that Kroger members have faced." Kroger could not be reached for comment.

SAFEWAY DEBUTS NEW 'FRESH' PROTOTYPE IN MARYLAND

HANOVER, Md. -- Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., brought its new prototype to the East Coast with the opening of a 57,860-square-foot store here that mirrors the changes the chain has made in several West Coast stores in its perishables and prepared-foods offerings. Two other stores are reportedly in the process of being converted in the Columbia, Md., market. The new store here features wooden shelving in the deli and bakery, an olive bar, a gourmet cheese bar and an expanded prepared-foods area featuring sandwiches and heat-and-eat entrees, according to reports. Safeway could not be reached for comment.

SHOPPING CENTERS AT RISK FROM WAL-MART: REPORT

NEW YORK -- The real-estate investment trusts that own thousands of supermarket-anchored shopping centers around the country face an increasing risk from the growth of supercenters operated by Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., according to a report by UBS AG here. The study said many REITs are shielded from Wal-Mart's expansion by virtue of their location in densely populated, high-income areas, but more will be threatened by Wal-Mart in the next three to five years as the discounter converts more of its traditional stores into supercenters, the report said. The REITs at the most risk during the next five years include Weingarten Realty Investors, Equity One and New Plan Excel Realty Trust.

WINCO COMPLETES ACQUISITION OF SUPERVALU'S STAKE

BOISE, Idaho -- WinCo Foods here said it completed the acquisition of the minority interest in the company that had been held by Supervalu, Minneapolis, for about $232 million. A spokesman for WinCo, a privately owned operator with 43 supermarkets in five Western states, told SN Supervalu had initiated the transaction and WinCo saw it as an opportunity to expand its employee stock ownership plan. Supervalu said the $150 million net proceeds from the sale would be used toward redemption of $250 million in notes due Sept. 15. Supervalu had originally acquired the stake in WinCo several years ago in exchange for its Oregon distribution center, which WinCo had acquired to begin self-distribution. WinCo is gearing up to open a second DC in Ceres, Calif., this summer.

DELHAIZE TO REFINANCE DEBT WITH $365M BOND ISSUE

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Delhaize Group here last week said it sold 300 million euros (about $365 million) in five-year notes, an increase from the 270 million-euro offer that was originally planned. The company issued the bonds to refinance existing debt.