UPDATE 4-Kroger to buy Harris Teeter for $2.5 bln, shares rise
* Offer of $49.38/shr a 1.8 pct premium to Monday close
* Kroger to assume Harris Teeter's debt of about $100 mln
* Deal marks second-largest acquisition for Kroger
* Harris Teeter shares up 1 pct but below offer price
* Kroger shares up 2 pct (New throughout, adds analyst comments, updates stock prices, adds bylines)
By Lisa Baertlein and Jessica Wohl
July 9 (Reuters) - Kroger Co said on Tuesday it would buy regional grocer Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc in a $2.5 billion deal, the latest in a string of grocery industry consolidations.
Shares of both companies rose, outpacing gains in the broader market.
The deal, approved by the boards of both companies on Monday night, will boost Kroger's presence in the U.S. southeast. Competitors there include privately held Publix and discounter Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the largest U.S. food retailer. Continued...