NEWS WATCH: SAFEWAY TAKES PROACTIVE STANCE IN BAY AREA TALKS...AHOLD PROVIDES DETAILS ON U.S. RESULTS...SMITHFIELD PACKING ACQUIRES WINN-DIXIE MEAT PLANT

SAFEWAY TAKES PROACTIVE STANCE IN BAY AREA TALKSled directly to its employees and consumers in a media conference call in which it sought to make its positions known as it starts negotiations with union locals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Talks involving Safeway, Albertsons and Kroger and eight locals of United Food and Commercial Workers union began Thursday to negotiate successor agreements to

SAFEWAY TAKES PROACTIVE STANCE IN BAY AREA TALKS

led directly to its employees and consumers in a media conference call in which it sought to make its positions known as it starts negotiations with union locals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Talks involving Safeway, Albertsons and Kroger and eight locals of United Food and Commercial Workers union began Thursday to negotiate successor agreements to contracts that were scheduled to expire over the weekend. Larree Renda, executive vice president, retail operations and labor relations, said Safeway opted to talk with the media "because it's important to us to make sure how our message is heard. In the past only the union got its message out, but there are two points of view and we want our employees and customers to hear both sides and let them decide what they think ought to be done." Union officials could not be reached for comment. Renda said 226 non-union stores have opened in the Bay Area since the last contract negotiations there three years ago, including units of Wal-Mart Stores, Target, Sam's Club, Costco, Winco, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

AHOLD PROVIDES DETAILS ON U.S. RESULTS

ZAANDAM, Netherlands -- Ahold here last week said the decline in the performance of its U.S. Retail division during the second quarter was not as severe as analysts had surmised. The company said asset impairment charges in the quarter totaled $26 million, compared with no charges a year ago, while it recorded a $2 million gain on real-estate sales, compared with $18 million a year ago. Integration costs for the merger of Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover cost $15 million. Analysts said they previously had underestimated the one-time events that affected income and attributed more of the margin decline to competitive pressures. Last month, Ahold reported that operating income before special charges decreased in the second quarter by 29.9% compared to the second quarter of 2003.

SMITHFIELD PACKING ACQUIRES WINN-DIXIE MEAT PLANT

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Winn-Dixie Stores here last week said it has sold its Dixie Packers manufacturing facility in Madison County, Fla., to Smithfield Packing Co. as part of a previously announced plan to shed assets. Financial terms were not disclosed. Smithfield Packing, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, Smithfield, Va., has agreed to continue to supply Winn-Dixie with products made at the facility, which include smoked hams, hot dogs, sausage, sliced lunch meats and other processed meat items.

PRODUCE BILL LEADS DOLLAR CHAIN TO BANKRUPTCY

MILWAUKEE -- Always 99 Cents, a four-store dollar chain based here, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week after reportedly running high debts to a produce supplier, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Sun City Produce, Pompano Beach, Fla., said Bo Bo Inc., the company that runs the four stores, owes it $625,000. The chain started selling produce last year in an attempt to lure more grocery customers, the report said.

ARIZONA FOOD GROUP HONORS RETAILERS, SUPPLIER

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Food Marketing Alliance here said it will honor Mike Provenzano of Phoenix Ranch Markets as retailer of the year at its annual Excellence in Leadership awards dinner on Nov. 19. Provenzano is president and chief executive officer of Pro & Sons, a chain of seven stores based in Ontario, Calif., that caters to a Hispanic clientele. The company opened its first store here in 2002 and the second a year ago. Other honorees at the dinner will be Tom Rock, marketing director of Circle K, as convenience-store retailer of the year, and Tim McCabe, division vice president and general manager of Coca-Cola Bottling Co., as supplier of the year. In addition, Al Basila, who retired as executive vice president, retail operations, for Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., in 1998 after 41 years with the company, will be inducted into the Arizona Food Industry Hall of Fame.