NY-based Tops to buy Penn Traffic’s supermarkets

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Tops Friendly Markets said Friday it is buying all 79 stores run by its bankrupt rival Penn Traffic Co., a move that would deepen its roots in New York and Pennsylvania and extend its reach into other Northeastern states.

Tops, based in suburban Buffalo, said its bid has been accepted by Syracuse-based Penn Traffic and recommended to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., for approval. A ruling on the offer could come Friday afternoon.

Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

Penn Traffic filed for bankruptcy in November and moved to sell most or all of its assets. It operates 79 P&C, Quality Markets and BiLo stores in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and New Hampshire and employs nearly 5,800 people.

Tops employs more than 10,000 and operates 71 company-owned supermarkets and five franchise outlets in western and central New York and northwestern Pennsylvania.

Tops has been owned by Morgan Stanley Private Equity since 2007. Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley are acting as its financial advisers, Tops said.

“Tops is very familiar with the localities served by Penn Traffic, and it is our goal to keep as many jobs and operate as many stores, without any interruption in service, as we possibly can,” Kevin Darrington, its chief financial officer, said in a statement. “We also plan to invest in those stores that are in need of upgrades in an effort to best serve our customers and associates.”

Price Chopper, a Schenectady-based company with 119 stores in six Northeastern states, had offered $54 million in December for 22 of the 46 P&C stores being auctioned.

“It looks like we have avoided the disaster of liquidation,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who had asked Penn Traffic’s largest lender, GE Capital, to extend a Dec. 21 deadline for potential buyout offers until the end of January. “We are on the cusp of preserving about 6,000 jobs and shopping options in rural communities.”