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Albertsons held preliminary merger talks with Sprouts: Bloomberg

Customers leave an Albertsons grocery store with their purchases in Burbank, California July 17, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

By Lawrence Delevingne

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Grocery business Albertsons Cos held preliminary talks to merge with Sprouts Farmers Market Inc (SFM.O), Bloomberg reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the situation.

Bloomberg said the early stage discussions took place in recent weeks and involved a plan to take Sprouts private. Doing so would add the natural and organic foods-focused business to the Albertsons suite of supermarket brands, which includes Safeway, Vons and Shaw's.

Albertsons is backed by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. Representatives for Albertsons and Sprouts did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while a spokeswoman for Cerberus declined to comment.

Shares of Sprouts spiked to a four-month high on Thursday and Friday amid a surge in stock options trading.

(Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)