retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Reuters reports on another case of an activist investment group pushing for the sale of a retailer - in this case, Barnes & Noble.

The investor is Sandell Asset Management Corp., which says that the bookstore chain would be better off with new ownership. The retailer has not been on a positive trajectory in terms of overall worth - the story says that in 2011 there was a proposal that valued the company at about $1 billion, but based on its current share price, it probably is worth barely more than half that.


• The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart has made a deal to invest in a company called Plug Power, which makes fuel-cell-powered warehouse forklifts. The deal means that "Wal-Mart will roll out Plug Power’s forklifts and warehouse vehicles to 10 distribution centers this year, an investment the manufacturer valued at $80 million. Wal-Mart is already Plug Power’s biggest customer, with 5,500 of the company’s units in 22 warehouses."

What makes this interesting is that "in April, Amazon agreed to spend $70 million on Plug Power’s vehicles and received rights to buy as many as 55.3 million shares in the company, a 19% stake.

Which makes Walmart and Amazon partners, of a sort.

The Journal writes that "Wal-Mart will receive warrants to purchase the exact same number of shares, though its initial price will be higher than Amazon’s because Plug Power’s stock price has risen 63% since announcing its Amazon deal. Wal-Mart’s potential stake is 17%."


• The National Grocers Association (NGA) said yesterday that it has named Joe Williams, former vice president for regulatory and member services of the Texas Retailers Association, this year's recipient of the NGA Spirit of America Award. The award, presented at last weekend's annual Texas Retailers Forum, is one of NGA’s top honors and recognizes individuals for their dedication and service to the independent supermarket industry.


• The Chicago Tribune reports that Mexico's Grupo Bimbo has announced "an agreement to acquire Chicago-based East Balt Bakeries, which supplies buns to McDonald's and other fast-food chains, for $650 million."
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