(Bloomberg)—Albertsons Cos., the grocery-chain operator backed by Cerberus Capital Management, has held preliminary talks to merge with Sprouts Farmers Market Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said.

The discussions, which took place in recent weeks, are at an early stage and may not lead to a deal, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing private details. The talks have involved a plan to take organic grocer Sprouts private and add it to Albertsons’ portfolio, which includes eponymous grocery stores and the Safeway store brand.

Shares in Sprouts, based in Phoenix, rose 5.7 percent in early trading in New York to $23.27, valuing the company at more than $3 billion.

Representatives for Cerberus and Sprouts didn’t respond to requests for comment outside of normal business hours.

Cerberus first invested in Albertsons in 2006, then bought another group of stores in 2013 from SuperValu Inc. Albertsons agreed in 2014 to acquire Safeway Inc. in a deal valued at about $9.2 billion, which was completed the following year.

In 2015, Cerberus began to prepare for an initial public offering of Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons, which now operates more than 2,200 stores, but delayed plans amid unfavorable market conditions.

New York-based Cerberus, led by billionaire Steve Feinberg, manages more than $30 billion in private equity holdings, distressed debt, other credit assets and real estate.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ed Hammond in New York at ehammond12@bloomberg.net ;Kiel Porter in New York at kporter17@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Elizabeth Fournier at efournier5@bloomberg.net Devin Banerjee

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