In a deal that will bring together two of the South's largest grocery chains, Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie Stores have agreed to merge to form a network of about 690 stores across eight Southeastern states.

Under the terms of the definitive agreement, Bi-Lo, based in Mauldin, S.C., will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Winn-Dixie stock in the merger for $9.50 per share, or about $560 million, the two companies said Monday. The offer represents a 75 percent premium to Winn-Dixie's closing price on Friday.

"We are very excited about the merger of Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie," said Randall Onstead, chairman of Bi-Lo, in a prepared statement. "With no overlap in our markets, the combined company will have a perfect geographic fit that will create a stronger platform from which to provide our customers great products at a great value, while continuing to offer exceptional service. Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie are both strong regional brands with similar heritages, compelling customer connections, and outstanding employees."

"This transaction with Bi-Lo provides Winn-Dixie shareholders with a significant cash premium for their shares," said Peter Lynch, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Winn-Dixie. "We believe this transaction is in the best interests of our shareholders. By combining Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie, we anticipate building a company that is stronger than our individual businesses and creating opportunities for continued advancement through the cross-pollination of our people and the sharing of ideas across our organizations, all to the benefit of our guests, suppliers, team members and the neighborhoods that Winn-Dixie serves."

A special committee of the Winn-Dixie board of directors, advised by independent financial and legal advisors, negotiated the transaction and recommended it to the full board. The full board unanimously approved the agreement and recommended Winn-Dixie shareholders vote in favor of the transaction, the companies said Monday.

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