Kroger Co., the largest U.S. grocery- store chain, agreed to buy Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. for $2.5 billion in cash to bolster its presence in the southeastern part of the country.

The offer of $49.38 per share is 34 percent more than Harris Teeter’s closing price on Jan. 18, the day of the first media report that the chain was evaluating strategic alternatives, according to a statement today.

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