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February 24, 2014



No real meat on the Ranchers Reserve bone so to speak, the magic is made with leverage. The more debt you use, the greater the tax deductibility of interest payments and the less you have to put in as an equity investment. Very similar with the mortgage on a house: you deduct interest payments (assume interest only mortgage), only put 20% down as equity, real estate goes up by 20%, you just made 100% return on your equity. The difference is that Cerberus is likely to take dividends out of Safeway with its stable cash flow, further juicing their near term return and lowering the risk of their initial investment.

Also companies that use leverage have less left over to spend on capital improvements so in that sense, it is good that the Burlingame store got renovated when it did.


Thanks, Locavore. I was thinking you might have some salsa to add to this guacamole. Are they under-levered now or is this just a convenient time to throw on unneeded sour cream?

Definitely glad the store got finished before the financial knife comes out. Will those juicy Just4U discounts on the website dry up?


Safeway is big, but it could be bigger.

Grocery is a relatively low margin business, and with more economies of scale comes higher margins and stock value.

Safeway is well run and provides a good value to the customer. A Cerberus type of buy out shop is likely to raise prices, and leverage their stronger locations and their relative price inelasticity, like Burlingame.


There is big news being reported in the WSJ today that the Albertson's/Cerberus takeover of Safeway has been approved by the FTC. The caveat is that they need to sell 168 stores "to address the commission's competition concerns". The companies expect to complete the merger in the next five business days.

One has to wonder if the B'game store is one of the 168 -- or perhaps the Millbrae Monstrosity since the Albertson's is right between them. We will wait and see.

Knowledge is power

Safeway has been in the process of selling stores for some time ahead of the WSJ announcement...


I was wondering about that tidbit, too. The first thing I thought of was that the Albertson's trademark sign is big and IMO frankly unattractive. Too bad, I'd gotten used to the sleek Safeway "S" signs-- at least they'd made an effort to refine their logo each decade or two!

up the camino

So is the Millbrae store for sale or not? I need some of this powerful knowledge.


I don't know the details, but I think it's unlikely the Safeway stores up here will be sold. The Albertson's Northern CA stores were sold to Save-Mart a while back, a smallish supermarket operator unrelated to Cerberus/Albertson's (and changed to the Lucky banner). The Albertson's Southern CA stores are owned by Cerberus (also had the rights to name them Lucky in that market) and therefore would have overlap with some Safeway stores (operating as Von's and Pavilions). Seems to me that it's the Southern CA stores that would have to be divested for anti-competitive reasons.


Ruh-roh. From the Mercury News:

Caleb Haley bought a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at Safeway in one of the grocery giant’s “Buy One, Get One Free” promotions, paying $7.49. The same tub cost $4 the day before the deal started and dropped back down to that price immediately after it ended.

Alleged promotional pricing practices like these by the nationwide grocer are deceptive and illegal, according to a lawsuit Haley filed this week, claiming nearly a million California consumers have been harmed.

At its 243 California stores, including dozens in the Bay Area, Safeway illegally jacks up prices on food sold in the “BOGO” and “Buy One, Get Two Free” promotions, the lawsuit in Northern California U.S. District Court claimed, contending that California’s unfair-competition and false-advertising laws make such practices illegal.

“Consumers making purchases under these promotions do not get a free product,” the lawsuit against Safeway and its parent firm Albertsons alleged. “Instead, they pay more for the product and buy more of the product than they otherwise would to obtain the illusory ‘free’ product.”



This is why I stopped shopping at Safeway years ago -- I noticed that the BOGO deals and other "sale" prices were generally phony-baloney. You could sometimes get a real deal by stacking store and manufacturer coupons, but you can bet that Safeway knew customers were gaming them and would game them back -- you'd eventually pay for your deal with overpriced items. I just got tired of trying to play their rigged system.

Handle Bard

You also want to watch out for the scan on the shelf tag deals. The scan doesn't always make it into your account so you end up missing out on the deal.

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