NEW YORK (Reuters) – Giant Eagle and Kroger will merge to form the nation’s largest grocery chain, becoming one of the nation\’s largest employers.

The proposed merger, which could close by year\’s end, would combine the two biggest grocery chains with a total of about 1.6 million U.K. and U.A. residents.

It will also mean Kroger and the largest U.G. supermarket chain, Aldi, will have to close more than 500 stores across the U and a few hundred in Canada.

Kroger, which has about 1,400 stores, said in December it was considering a takeover bid.

Giant Eagle, which employs more than 10,000 people, is also working on a plan to merge with another grocery chain.

Kruger has about 400 stores in the United States, including in Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Seattle and other cities.

The company had said in a filing last week it would look for a buyer, although the terms of the proposed transaction weren\’t disclosed.

Krager and Giant Eagle would be the first American companies to combine with another U.R. chain.

Kroger, a leading grocery retailer, has been looking for a U.U.C.I.P. buyer since the merger with Safeway Corp in 1999.