After an ill-fated attempt in 2015, Albertsons—the second-largest U.S. grocery business by number of stores, behind Kroger—became a publicly traded company Friday to an underwhelming response. Investors’ caution is reasonable, but seems overdone.

The lukewarm debut is a big blow to the grocer’s private-equity owners. It seemed like the perfect time, with the market showing enthusiasm for recent initial public offerings and supermarkets posting impressive sales growth. The company had been expecting to price at $18 to $20 a…

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