With the share price of Whole Foods Market Inc. still hovering above the $42 price offered by Amazon.com Inc., speculation that another bidder could jump into the fray reached a fever pitch late last week, with one analyst suggesting Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was a likely suitor.
By Monday morning, speculation about the Arkansas-based retail behemoth challenging Amazon’s $13.7 billion takeover appeared doused, after Reuters threw cold water on the rumors.
Walmart (NYSE: WMT), as the nation’s top groceries seller, is in the strongest position among “traditional” retailers such as Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) and Target (NYSE: TGT), according to a JPMorgan research note. But a high-level source told Reuters that Walmart wasn’t interested, and that Whole Foods has not received any rival bids.
Investors remain bullish on Austin-based Whole Foods — its shares closed Monday at $42.69 apiece and were trading as high as $43.84 as recently as June 23. But Gordon Haskett Research Advisors, a New York City-based independent research firm, has downgraded the stock from buy to hold and no longer expects a competing bid.
Whole Foods generated about $15.8 billion in sales in fiscal 2016. However, comparable-store sales have slipped for seven straight quarters in the face of increased competition. It is Austin’s largest public company with some 87,000 global employees, including about 3,000 in Central Texas.