Albertsons and Rite Aid abruptly called off a $24 billion proposed merger amid resistance from Rite Aid stockholders who said the deal undervalued the company.

“While we believed in the merits of the combination with Albertsons, we have heard the views expressed by our stockholders and are committed to moving forward and executing our strategic plan as a standalone company,” Rite Aid Chief Executive Officer John Standley stated.

A special meeting of Rite Aid’s stockholders had been scheduled to take place on Thursday.

In a separate statement, grocery store company Albertsons said it still believed in the strategic rationale of the merger, citing $375 million of cost synergies and $3.6 billion of identified revenue opportunities it said would accrue.

“We disagree with the conclusion of certain Rite Aid stockholders and third-party advisory firms that, although they acknowledged the strategic logic of the combination, [they] did not believe that Albertsons was offering sufficient merger consideration to Rite Aid stockholders.”

Rite Aid said neither it nor Albertsons would be responsible for any payments to the other party as a result of the termination of the merger agreement.

It also said its board of directors was evaluating governance changes at the company and would continue to engage with stockholders to ensure alignment between the company and its investors.

The merged company would have had, reportedly, $83 billion in annual sales and 4,900 locations across the U.S.

Rite Aid shares were down 11.4% on Thursday. Albertsons is privately held.

A proposed acquisition of Rite Aid by Walgreens in 2015 was blocked by federal regulators on antitrust grounds, leaving questions about Rite Aid’s future. Albertsons in February announced it had agreed to buy the company.

“There was some logic in that the deal would have given Albertsons more scale in the high-growth pharmacy and health space,” Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail said, but he said the idea of idea of creating a food, health, and wellness giant was “always fanciful.”

Upon the announcement of the merger termination, Moody’s Investors Service  placed the ratings of Rite Aid on review for downgrade.

“The termination of the merger … negates the opportunity for Rite-Aid to gain scale and reduce its reliance on purely drug sales, which have been under reimbursement pressure thereby negatively impacting margins,” stated Moody’s in its rating action report.

“The combination of Albertsons and Rite-Aid would have resulted in an enhanced pharmacy network for Rite-Aid on the west coast and northeast, which could have helped Rite-Aid owned PBM, Envision Rx, in contract negotiations.”

Photo: Getty Images

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