Report: Fred’s could be mulling sale

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The “pending transaction” that Fred’s Inc. mentioned in its third-quarter conference call has stirred up some speculation that the Southeastern discount and pharmacy retailer could be sold.

Freds Pharmacy_sign closeupInvestor website TheStreet.com reported on Monday that Fred’s “may finally be a willing seller.”

Industry observers’ first impression after Fred’s Q3 call — in which the company took no analyst questions — was that this “pending transaction” involved a purchase of divested stores from the pending Walgreens-Rite Aid merger deal. Yet an analyst told TheStreet (in a report originally run by sister site The Deal) that Fred’s opt-out of the Q&A in the conference call may portend something more.

“While Fred’s purchase of stores sold under the Federal Trade Commission order is possible, it seems more likely Fred’s is referring to an approach from a private equity sponsor to outright buy the company, Nick Mitchell of Northcoast Research told The Deal on Friday,” TheStreet’s report said.

The rationale presumably would be the following: A reported package of 650 or so store divestitures floated to private equity players in the Walgreens-Rite Aid talks with the Federal Trade Commission didn’t get anyone to bite, but if these stores are put together with Fred’s roughly 650 stores (which include 370 pharmacies), that might sway a private equity firm to make a go of it with a retail pharmacy business (Fred’s also has specialty pharmacies).

“While CVS Health and Walgreens had been also rumored buyers in the past, Mitchell suspects a sale [of Fred’s] to a sponsor is more likely, as opposed to a strategic,” TheStreet reported.


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