Bargain-basement 99 Cents Only Stores said Tuesday it has agreed to a takeover deal worth $1.6 billion from a US private-equity firm and a Canadian pension investment agency. The chain said in a statement the buyers were Ares Management, based in Los Angeles, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The offer is $22.00 per share in cash, valuing the transaction at roughly $1.6 billion, said 99 Cents Only Stores, headquartered in City of Commerce, California. That represents a 32 percent premium over 99 Cents Only Stores's closing share price on March 10, one day before the company publicly disclosed it had received a takeover offer, it said. At the time, the firm's founding Gold/Schiffer family had considered a buyout offer of $19.09 per share from private-equity firm Leonard Green & Partners. The deal announced Tuesday with Ares and the Canadian agency, which requires shareholder approval, is backed by the Gold/Schiffer family whose members will continue to hold top executive positions at the firm. "Members of the Gold/Schiffer family have entered into a voting agreement in support of the transaction and will continue to hold a significant minority ownership stake," said the cut-rate retailer. The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2012, the company said. Founded in 1982, 99 Cents Only Stores operates a total 289 stores in California, Texas, Arizona and Nevada. More than half its sales come from food and beverages. For its fiscal year 2011 that ended April 2, 99 Cents Only Stores posted profit of $74.3 million, up 23 percent from the prior year, with sales increased by five percent to $1.42 billion. 99 Cent shares, which have gained about 25 percent over the past 12 months, leaped 4.4 percent to $21.40 in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Other deep-discount retailers have seen their stocks climb sharply in the past 52 weeks as consumers hunker down amid a faltering economy, high unemployment and shrinking incomes. Dollar Tree has surged 58.7 percent, Dollar General gained 28.8 percent and Family Dollar was up 17.0 percent from a year ago.