PE-Backed Bust: Bi-Lo Supermarkets

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Supermarket chain BI-Lo LLC filed for bankruptcy on Monday, just days before two loans mature that are secured by the company’s 215 food stores.

The Greenville, South Carolina chain, which is owned by private equity group Lone Star Funds [LS.UL], said it and nine affiliates asked for court approval of a $100 million bankruptcy loan from General Electric Capital to allow it to continue paying staff and vendors while it restructures.

In a court filing, the company said it had assets and liabilities of between $500 million and $1 billion.

The company said that two loans for $360 million mature on March 26. Some of the lenders would not extend the maturity of one of the loans and the company said it would not be able to repay or refinance, forcing it to seek court protection.

Standard & Poor’s cut the company’s credit rating last year, citing tough competition in southeastern states where it operates.

BI-Lo employs about 15,500.

The case is In re BI-Lo LLC, US Bankruptcy Court, District of South Carolina, No. 09-02140.

By Tom Hals