Kohl’s shares jump 14% after reports say Hudson’s Bay, Sycamore are preparing bids

The Kohl’s logo is displayed on the exterior of a Kohl’s store on January 24, 2022 in San Rafael, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Kohl’s shares jumped 14% Wednesday morning after reports said that another department store chain is mulling a buyout of the retailer.

The Canadian department store chain Hudson’s Bay is considering a bid, said Axios, which based its reporting on conversations with multiple sources.

Private equity firm Sycamore Partners is also considering a bid for Kohl’s, Axios said. Though it’s unclear whether or not Sycamore is serious, according to the report.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, later reported that Sycamore and Kohl’s were planning bids priced in the high $60s per share, potentially valuing Kohl’s at more than $9 billion. Shares of Kohl’s traded above $60 after the Journal report was published.

A Kohl’s spokeswoman said in an emailed statement, “As previously disclosed, the board’s engagement with potential bidders is robust and ongoing.”

“The board will measure potential bids against a compelling standalone plan and choose the path that it believes maximizes shareholder value,” she said.

Hudson’s Bay didn’t immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. Sycamore declined to comment.

The rumors of potential suitors come as Kohl’s has already said an offer from Starboard-backed Acacia Research, of $64 per share, was too low. Kohl’s shares opened Wednesday at $54.46. The stock is up about 14% this year.

After pressure mounted from activists earlier this year for Kohl’s to consider selling itself, the company began working with Goldman Sachs and other financial advisors to consider unsolicited bids, and also to make some proactive outreach to potential buyers.

Kohl’s said last month that it has so far engaged with more than 20 parties, including real estate-focused investors and strategic businesses. Without giving specific names, it said some of those entities had entered into confidentiality agreements with Kohl’s and were invited to submit proposals.

Also on Wednesday, Engine Capital sent a letter to Kohl’s board saying that it was “extremely disappointed” with the longer-term outlook provided at Kohl’s recent investor day.

Engine said it’s concerned that Kohl’s may end up rejecting any final offers for its business, “based on a misguided and unrealistic conclusion that it undervalues Kohl’s.”