Supervalu CFO Resigns Amid Grocery Woes -- Update

By Heather Haddon and Ali Stratton Features Dow Jones Newswires

Retail and wholesale food seller Supervalu Inc.'s chief financial officer is resigning, the third industry executive to step down within the past week amid turmoil in the grocery industry.

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Bruce Besanko, who also was the Minnesota-based grocer's chief operating officer, will step down July 5 "to pursue an opportunity outside the company," Supervalu said.

The grocery industry is struggling with increased competition and prolonged food-price deflation that has eroded company margins. Last week, the chief executive of Southeastern Grocers LLC, Ian McLeod, said he was leaving the chain for Hong Kong-based retailer Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd. Also last week, the CEO of Fresh Market, Rick Anicetti, said without explanation that he was resigning.

Supervalu has seen a sharp decline in sales in its retail stores, prompting the grocer to focus more on its wholesale business. The company's stock has fallen by 30% in the past year to around $2.96 on Monday.

Last week, the company completed its acquisition of Unified Grocers for $390 million to further bolster its wholesale business.

Supervalu said its wholesale margin in its fiscal fourth quarter rose to 3.6% from 2.9% a year earlier. Its retail margins shrank to 1.3% from 2.7%.

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Supervalu Chief Executive Mark Gross said Monday that Mr. Besanko made improvements to the company's capital structure that "have laid groundwork for transformation." Earlier this month, Supervalu said it plans to overhaul its technology infrastructure in a move to strengthen its operations.

Supervalu has shrunk its network of grocery stores from about 1,500 in 2012 to around 220. The company announced a deal in October to sell its Save-A-Lot chain to private-equity firm Onex Corp.

Though struggling, discounters like Supervalu have posed challenges to traditional grocers, who in turn have cut prices to compete at the lower end of the market. German deep-discounter Lidl, which opened its first U.S. stores this year, on Monday announced plans for four more stores in Virginia and North Carolina and a $100 million regional headquarters and distribution center in Georgia.

The chief strategy officer for Supervalu said it has begun a search for Mr. Besanko's successor.

Write to Heather Haddon at heather.haddon@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 26, 2017 13:49 ET (17:49 GMT)