Pig’s parent sells 14 retail properties $71M deal part of liquidation

The Harris Teeter-anchored Folly Road Crossing shopping center is one of 14 shopping centers sold Tuesday by affiliates of Greenbax Enterprises.

The parent company of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. sold 14 shopping centers Tuesday in a $71 million deal with a Virginia firm, the latest step in its liquidation plan.

Wheeler Real Estate Investment Trust bought 13 retail properties in South Carolina, including three in the Charleston area, and one in Georgia from affiliates of Greenbax Enterprises. It paid $69 million in cash and company shares valued at $2 million.

A Wheeler official said the Virginia Beach-based company first became aware of the properties a year ago this month and made an offer in late fall.

“This is the largest single acquisition for us since the company was founded 16 years ago,” CEO Jon Wheeler said Tuesday after the deal closed. “It is significant and very transformational. ... We are confident these assets will generate solid net operating income for the company and immediately (add) to earnings.”

David Schools, president of Greenbax and Piggly Wiggly Carolina, did not respond to a call seeking comment. Mount Pleasant-based Greenbax is shedding its real estate and other assets under a liquidation plan announced in 2013. The Charleston-based Piggly Wiggly operator sold off nearly 30 supermarkets that year to larger rivals Bi-Lo and Harris Teeter after running into financial trouble.

Wheeler opened an office in downtown Charleston nearly two years ago and began scouting retail properties from Charleston to Jacksonville. It decided the Greenbax portfolio best suited its needs within a two-hour driving window of Charleston, its CEO said.

The combined properties in the purchase make up more than 603,000 square feet and are 92 percent occupied, according to Wheeler. They are anchored by eight Bi-Lo grocery stores, five Piggly Wiggly supermarkets and one Harris Teeter.

The Wheeler purchase includes the Harris Teeter-anchored Folly Road Crossing on James Island, the Bi-Lo-anchored Ladson Crossing in Ladson. The Piggly Wiggly in Moncks Corner also was part of the deal.

Wheeler said his company will expand the newly acquired James Island property by about 6,000 square feet. No other major changes are being proposed for the others.

Wheeler said a recent lawsuit filed by former Piggly Wiggy employees against Piggly Wiggly Carolina, Greenbax and several top executives over unpaid retirement benefits had no bearing on his company’s latest acquisition.

“That is not real estate specific,” he said of the federal lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status. “It didn’t have any impact on us.”

Only six Piggly Wiggly-affiliated stores remain in the Charleston area. They include brand-name stores in Moncks Corner, Hollywood and North Charleston, two Mr. K’s in Summerville and a Price Wise Foods store in Hanahan. Only the Hollywood store is owned by Piggly Wiggly Carolina. The others are independently owned and operated, according to the company website.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.