1. Business

Report: Sweetbay grocery chain may be on the sales block

The Sweetbay supermarket chain based in Tampa may be put up for sale by Belgian owner Delhaize Group as it continues to cut costs in the United States, Reuters reported.

Delhaize has hired Lazard Ltd. to sell Sweetbay as well as Harveys, another of its U.S. supermarket businesses, Reuters said, citing unnamed sources.

Delhaize CEO Pierre-Olivier Beckers, who has announced plans to retire, told Reuters that the company was looking at options for the units, but declined to comment directly on whether advisers had been appointed to conduct the sale.

"This is a question on the table at the moment," he told Reuters on the sidelines of the company's annual shareholders meeting.

Sweetbay last year said it would close 33, or about a third, of its underperforming stores in a cost-cutting move.

The closings included its high-visibility Tangerine Plaza store in St. Petersburg's Midtown district that was opened as a foundation business in a city-led neighborhood revitalization effort.

Sweetbay is the successor of the Kash n' Karry chain and was designed to be more competitive with Publix Super Markets, Florida's No. 1 grocery chain.

But Sweetbay is limited geographically to Central and Gulf Coast Florida. And it has been squeezed from above by more upscale chains and from below by discounters like Walmart, Costco, Aldi and Sam's Club.

The chain of 72 stores is operated by Delhaize America, a North Carolina subsidiary of Delhaize Group that also runs Food Lion, Hannaford and other grocery stores.