Report: Wal-Mart Said to Consider Bid to Buy BJ's Wholesale

NATICK, Mass. - The website Daily Deal reported on Thursday that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is considering a bid to buy BJ's Wholesale Club Inc., the Natick, Mass.-based chain that operates about 140 club stores.

BJ's officials could not be reached last night by the Boston Globe. A spokesman for Wal-Mart said the Arkansas-based company does not comment on speculation.

According to Daily Deal, Wal-Mart is primarily interested in BJ's East Coast locations for its Sam's Club chain and is prepared to make an offer valued at up to $1.4 billion.

Sean Daly, president of Tower Hill Holdings Inc., told the website that he has heard that Wal-Mart has recently made an offer for BJ's. Tower, a Charlottesville, Va., investment firm, owns less than 5 percent of BJ's shares.

BJ's is a distant third in the three-chain club store world, competing against Costco Wholesale Corp., based in Washington state, and Sam's. BJ's, which sells many of the same items that can be found at a typical big supermarket, concentrates on consumers. Costco and Sam's put more emphasis on small-business operators.

A few years ago, all three chains fared well as they focused on regional markets near their home bases. But now because of expansion, all three players compete against one another in many of the same markets.

Though its March sales rose 16 percent, BJ's reported last month that fourth-quarter profit decreased 14 percent. On that day, BJ's stock shares fell to their lowest level since mid-1997. Management, meanwhile, has experienced turnover. In September, Mike Wedge was promoted to chief executive after the unexpected departure of his predecessor.
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