Newswatch

A&P'S STOCK PLUNGE CONTINUES MONTVALE, N.J. Stock in A&P here, in free fall since the summer, tumbled by more than 26% last Wednesday to close at its lowest levels in more than five years. Funds associated with the Tengelmann Group, the retailer's largest owner, have been vigorously buying its stock on the open market as hedge funds and other investors have liquidated their holdings. Last Wednesday,

A&P'S STOCK PLUNGE CONTINUES

MONTVALE, N.J. — Stock in A&P here, in free fall since the summer, tumbled by more than 26% last Wednesday to close at its lowest levels in more than five years. Funds associated with the Tengelmann Group, the retailer's largest owner, have been vigorously buying its stock on the open market as hedge funds and other investors have liquidated their holdings. Last Wednesday, more than 1.3 million shares traded hands as the stock closed at $4.26 a share — its lowest closing since March 2003.

HARPS TO BUY WALLACE & OWENS

SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Harps Food Stores said last week that it has agreed to acquire Wallace & Owens Stores, an eight-unit chain with stores in Missouri and Arkansas. Terms of the sale, which is scheduled to close by mid-December, were not disclosed. “My brother [Rich] and I have grown up in the family business and have enjoyed over 30 years together helping to shape and grow the company,” said Steve Wallace, president of Wallace & Owens. “This is an end of an era for us, but offers a wonderful opportunity for our staff to now become owners themselves.” Harps is an employee-owned chain that will operate 61 locations in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri following the purchase.

STOP & SHOP BUYS 2 SUPERMARKETS

QUINCY, Mass. — Stop & Shop here said it has signed an agreement to purchase two Massachusetts store leases from Grand Union Family Markets and convert the stores to the Stop & Shop banner. The stores, currently operating as Grand Union in Provincetown, Mass., and Ro-Jack's in Seekonk, Mass., will close briefly early next month and reopen as Stop & Shop stores “in time to serve customers through the holidays,” Stop & Shop said in a statement. Grand Union Family Markets is operated by C&S Wholesaler Grocers, Keene, N.H., which also supplies area Stop & Shop stores. C&S acquired the Provincetown store as part of its acquisition of Grand Union in 2001 and Ro-Jack's as part of an asset swap with Supervalu in 2003.

TOPS DEBUTS 1ST STORE RENOVATION

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — Tops Markets here last week reopened a renovated store in Olean, N.Y., marking the first remodel under the chain's new owners. According to a sales flier, the store features expanded meat, deli and bakery shops; a larger selection of frozen foods; and an all-new Nature's Marketplace natural/organics section. The store also features a Tim Hortons Express coffee and pastry bar and a branded Anchor Bar wing bar, where shoppers can get made-to-order Buffalo chicken wings. The renovated store is the first of many store renovations planned by Tops, which was acquired last year by Morgan Stanley Private Equity.

AGENCIES DOWNGRADE WHOLE FOODS

NEW YORK — The Standard & Poor's and Moody's credit agencies last week separately downgraded Whole Foods Markets by one notch in their respective corporate credit ratings. S&P cut its rating to BB- from BB. Moody's downgrade — from Ba3 to Ba2 — followed the company's announcement last week of lower earnings. Whole Foods' plan to sell $425 million in preferred stock to a subsidiary of Leonard Green & Partners would improve the company's liquidity but would also result in incremental leverage, Moody's added.