(Feb. 21) Smart & Final Inc., an operator of 254 non-membership warehouse stores for food and foodservice, has inked a deal to sell the business.

In a news release Feb. 20, Los Angeles-based Smart & Final — which has stores in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and northern Mexico – said it has a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of private equity firm Apollo Management LP.

While it has had past partnerships with companies from a variety of industries, in the grocery retail industry Apollo has invested in firms such as Compton, Calif.-based Ralph’s Grocery Co. and Dominick’s Supermarkets Inc., Chicago.

Smart & Final said the acquisition would happen for $22 per share in cash, and that the firm’s board of directors had already approved the transaction, which should close in 2007’s second quarter.

The total value of the deal, including Smart & Final’s existing debt obligations, is about $812.9 million, the company said.

According to a statement from Smart & Final president and chief executive officer Etienne Snollaerts, the acquisition will end the firm’s relationship with Paris-based Groupe Casino, an international retailer that owns 55% of Smart & Final’s common stock.

"We are delighted to continue our dynamic growth program with a new financial partner that will bring deep retail perspective to our team,” Snollaerts said. “I'd also like to acknowledge the tremendous support which (Groupe Casino has) offered to Smart & Final in developing our current business."

In the same release detailing the merger agreement, Smart & Final reported fourth quarter and full year results for fiscal 2006 that included a $34.6 million jump in sales (7.6%) for the quarter and a 5.1% sales increase for the year.