* Sells Sweetbay, Harveys and Reid’s chains to Bi-Lo
* Retains U.S. mainstay Food Lion
* Sale aimed focusing effort, spending on existing brands
BRUSSELS, May 29 (Reuters) - Belgium-based food retailer Delhaize has agreed to sell three U.S. supermarket chains to rival Bi-Lo Holdings for $265 million to simplify its U.S. business and focus more on its larger chains.
Delhaize, which earns some 65 percent of its revenue in the United States, said in a statement late on Tuesday that it would be selling its Sweetbay, Harveys and Reid’s operations.
The 165 stores generated revenue of $1.8 billion last year, about 6 percent of Delhaize’s overall revenue of 22.7 billion euros ($29.18 billion).
Chief Executive Pierre-Oliver Beckers, who is set to retire at the end of the year, said the deal would help to simplify its U.S. operations and focus its efforts and money on its remaining businesses there.
The stores it has sold operate in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Delhaize will retain its largest U.S. business, Food Lion, with more than 1,000 stores in the southeast and mid-Atlantic states as well as its smaller Bottom Dollar and up-market northeastern Hannaford chains.
Like other retailers in the United States, Delhaize has been hit by a squeeze of consumer incomes and fierce competition, with price promotions trimming margins.
Delhaize has been busy with a major refurbishment of its Food Lion stores and cut is dividend this year to help fund investments.
Higher spending at the revamped stores helped stem four quarters of declining sales in the United States at the end of last year.