CHICAGO (AP) _ Safeway Inc. plans to buy Dominick's Supermarkets Inc. for $1.2 billion in cash in a deal that will give the huge grocery company a big stake in the metropolitan Chicago market.

Dominick's operates 112 stores in the Chicago area. It had revenues last year of $2.6 billion.

After the deal announced today closes, Safeway would have more than 1,490 stores in 18 states and Western Canada and annual sales of more than $26.5 billion.

The companies hope to complete the transaction before the end of the year.

Safeway, based in Pleasanton, Calif., is paying $49 a share in cash for Northlake, Ill.-based Dominick's.

That is an 18.4 percent premium over Dominick's closing price of $41.37 1/2 a share in trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Safeway also would assume about $646.2 million of Dominick's debt under the plan, which was approved unanimously by Dominick's board of directors.

Dominick's patriarch, Dominick DiMatteo Jr., died in November 1993 after building the company from a West Side mom-and-pop store into the No. 2 grocery chain in the Chicago metropolitan area.