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‘Qualified parties’ interested in Fred’s Inc.   

Memphis, Tenn. -- Saying it “has received multiple inquiries from qualified parties,” neighborhood discounter Fred’s has retained Merrill Lynch to review strategic alternatives, the 708-store chain said during its third quarter earnings report today.

Fred’s reported net income of $4.6 million, down 23% from a year ago, on sales of $419.9 million, up 3%.

In connection with its strategic and financial review, Fred’s also said it was temporarily suspending its stock repurchase program. Fred’s shares zoomed up more than 10% by midday on news of the review.

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