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Albertson's duels Safeway on Web turf

Traditional grocery company Albertson's plans to expand its Web operations to Portland, Ore., on Monday, dueling archrival Safeway for control of the city's home-delivery sector.

Traditional grocery company Albertson's continues to bet on the Internet and will expand its Web operations to Portland, Ore., on Monday, the company said Friday.

Albertson's will serve 53 neighborhoods in the Portland area starting Monday, a company spokesman said. Customers can order groceries from Albertsons.com and then choose between having their orders delivered to their homes or picking them up themselves from their nearest Albertson's supermarket.

By moving into Portland, Albertson's is facing off against archrival Safeway, which began operating in the city last month. The head-to-head competition is likely to be only the first of many more, as the two companies tussle for control of the Internet's home-delivery sector. Albertson's service area in Portland closely resembles Safeway's.

Since the start of the year, the Internet units of Albertson's and Safeway have rapidly fanned out. Albertson's, which also services San Diego and Seattle, opened operations in the Los Angeles area earlier this month. Last week, Safeway introduced its service to the Sacramento, Calif., area. Safeway also services Vancouver, Wash.

Both companies are expected to unveil home delivery in San Francisco within weeks.

The Internet's home-delivery sector for groceries was thought to have died when Web-only companies such as Webvan, Streamline, HomeRuns.com and ShopLink.com closed shop.

Unlike their Internet-only counterparts, traditional grocery chains refrained from expanding their operations nationwide. Some analysts guessed that the dismal collapse of Web-only grocers scared off the brick-and-mortar companies.

But the time appears to be right for Safeway and Albertson's.

Part of Albertson's service area will also include several areas in Washington state. The Boise, Idaho-based company is charging $9.95 for home delivery and $4.95 for in-store pickup. Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway also charges $9.95 for home delivery but does not offer in-store pickup.