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Smart & Final grocery chain goes public

Smart & Final Stores Inc., the warehouse-style grocery chain with a deep history in Los Angeles, raised about $161 million Wednesday through the public sale of nearly 13.5 million shares.

Shares of the Commerce company climbed as high as $13.42, up from the offering IPO price of $12. The stock closed at $12.01 a share.

The offering is expected to net the company about $145.5 million, according to a regulatory filing.

Smart & Final is going public at a time of increased competition in the grocery space. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. have both stepped up their fresh-food offerings, while e-commerce giant Amazon has also started testing grocery delivery.

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The company, which is trading under the ticker symbol SFS, has said it will use a big portion of the money raised to pay down debt.

Smart & Final’s history stretches back to 19th century Los Angeles.

The company traces is roots to 1871, to a shop called Hellman, Haas Grocery Co. that sold daily necessities such as flour, chewing tobacco and gunpowder. The store was one of the first seven names in L.A.'s first telephone directory, according to the company website.

More than a century later, Smart & Final controls about 250 grocery and food stores in six states including California, Arizona and Oregon. The shops operate under the names Smart & Final, Smart & Final Extra! and Cash & Carry Smart Foodserve.

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The company reported net income of $8.2 million last year. Sales reached $3.2 billion, with same-store sales climbing 4% that year.

Smart & Final is backed by private equity firm Ares Management, which bought the company from Apollo Global Management in 2012 for $975 million.

Follow Shan Li on Twitter: @ShanLi


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