SuperValu shares soar 65% after United Natural Foods agrees to acquire grocery chain

SuperValu Inc. shares soared 65% Thursday, after United Natural Foods Inc. said it has agreed to acquire the food distributor and grocery chain in a deal valued at about $2.9 billion, including debt.

United Natural Foods UNFI, -3.04%, which specializes in healthier food options, distributes more than 110,000 products to more than 43,000 customer locations, including natural-product stores and conventional supermarkets. The company is paying $32.50 per SuperValu share US:SVU, equal to a 67% premium over the stock’s closing price Wednesday.

The deal will expand its range and help the company reach a broader spectrum of customers, said Steve Spinner, UNFI’s chief executive, in a statement. Spinner is to lead the combined company, and Sean Griffin, the company’s chief operating officer, has been tapped to head up the SuperValu integration effort. UNFI said it will exit SuperValu’s retail business, which comprises 3,000 stores. The company has spent more than two years executing a transformation plan aimed at returning to its wholesale roots.