Kroger Co. (KR) was downgraded to hold from buy at Jefferies, with analysts expressing diminished confidence in the grocer's ability to turn its partnership with Ocado Group PLC into growth. In May 2018 (http://admin.marketwatch.com/Filing/HeadlinePulse.aspx?contentType=PulseNews&docTypeSel=91&holdSettings=False), the two companies announced that Kroger had taken a 5% stake in Ocado through a $247 million stock purchase. The technology deal includes automated warehouses and other measures. Jefferies analysts say the tie-up has been "costly" and "risky," that pricing versus Kroger's grocery competitor Walmart Inc. (WMT) hasn't improved, and there are no drivers for same-store progress in fiscal 2020. Jefferies said the deal "is a poor and significant long-term capital allocation misstep when compared to micro-fulfillment." Jefferies lowered its price target to $26 from $29. "Chances of a meaningful resurgence in same-store sales are slim given management's inability to effectively articulate a sound strategy to revive its core biz and our belief that superior retailers like Walmart will continue to realize outsized share gains," the note said. Kroger stock is down 1.8% in Thursday premarket trading, and down 10.8% for the year to date. The S&P 500 index has gained 16.5% for 2019 so far.
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