Department store operator Belk Inc is nearing a deal to acquire Saks Inc's Proffitt's and McRae's chains for $600-$650 million, according to sources quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

An agreement for the 22 Proffitt's and 29 McRae's stores would allow Belk to grow its presence throughout the Southeast US, where it currently operates 229 stores.

Saks Inc is in the process of dividing up its businesses, and may soon announce a possible sale of its Northern US chains in addition to the Southeastern ones. 

In January Belk announced a deal to acquire four Proffitt's stores in North Carolina.