Wild Oats Plans 58 New Stores in 3 Years

BOULDER, Colo. - Wild Oats Markets on Wednesday said it plans to raise $48 million in a private stock offering to open 58 new grocery stores in three years and remodel many of the old ones, the Denver Post reports.

The natural foods grocer, second-largest behind Texas-based Whole Foods, said it has lined up several major investors -- mostly mutual fund companies -- that will pay $11.50 a share for 4.45 million shares of common stock. The sales will close on Tuesday.

One analyst told the newspaper that Wild Oats wants to let investors know the company will be around the next few years.

"We felt this was a step for us that could raise greater awareness for the stock and the company, by going to some of the lead mutual fund companies," said Wild Oats CFO Ed Dunlap.

Wild Oats engaged in an aggressive acquisition streak in the late 1990s, which left the company bleeding red ink, the newspaper reports. The retailer also is carrying $96 million in debt, and hasn't always paid its creditors on schedule.

Wild Oats currently runs around 100 full-service stores in 23 states and Canada. The stores operate under the Capers, Henry's Marketplace, Sun Harvest Farms, Nature's Fresh, and Wild Oats Market names.

Dunlap said the company will open 13 stores in existing markets across the Southwest next year. The following two years, it plans to enter new markets.
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