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June 25 (Reuters) - Friedman Billings Ramsey upgraded Winn-Dixie Stores Inc WINN.O, saying the competitive environment remains stable and the stock is undervalued, sending the food retailer's shares up as much as 14 percent.
The brokerage said the grocer, which competes with Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), Publix Super Markets Inc and Kash n' Karry, continues to execute on plan to restore profitability and drive sales.
Friedman said the Publix acquisition of 49 Albertson's LLC stores in Florida from Cerberus will benefit Winn-Dixie slightly.
Albertson's format appealed to a low-middle income demographic -- more consistent with the Winn-Dixie customer, while Publix tends to appeal to a higher income demographic, Friedman said.
As a result, the deal presents the company with an opportunity to gain share, the brokerage said. It has a price target of $20 on the stock.
Winn-Dixie operates 521 retail grocery locations including more than 400 in-store pharmacies in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi.
Shares of the Jacksonville, Florida-based Winn-Dixie rose to a high of $17.72 earlier, but pared some gains to trade up $1.92 at $17.42 in morning trade on Nasdaq. They had fallen 8 percent so far this year before Wednesday's gains. (Reporting by Dilipp S. Nag in Bangalore; Editing by Deepak Kannan)