Salt Lake-based American Stores Co. said Friday it is having "serious discussions" with a "third party" concerning the sale of some 50 of its Osco Drug stores in the Intermountain area.

Although American Stores did not name the potential buyer, it is understood to be Payless Drug Stores, a subsidiary of K mart Discount Stores.Osco Drug stores are operated by American Drug Stores Inc., a subsidiary of American Stores Co.

Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., American Drug Stores Inc. is the nation's second largest drug chain. American Drug Stores Inc. operates 681 stores in 27 states under the Osco Drug and Sav-on names.

American Stores Co. operates 1,848 grocery, drug and food/drug combination stores in 35 states. It last reported annual sales of $22.2 billion.