By Andria Cheng, MarketWatch
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — A marriage between No. 2 and No. 3 office-supplies chains Office Depot Inc. and OfficeMax Inc. would be good news not only for investors in both stocks, but it turns out those owning larger rival Staples Inc. may benefit as well.
On Tuesday, Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) shares surged 15% after the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday its two smaller rivals are in merger talks. Office Depot (NYSE:ODP) rose 18%, while OfficeMax (NYSE:OMX) surged 25%.
The office-supplies chains face declining sales and traffic from increased online competition, sluggish U.S. job growth, an oversaturation of stores and digitization of the work space that sapped demand for such traditional products such as paper and ink. A tie-up would help lead to cost consolidation and store closings to make Office Depot and OfficeMax better competitors, analysts said.
Staples would benefit, as well. It stands to pick up lost sales from any store closings and any merger-synergy disruptions, they said.
If Office Depot or OfficeMax “failed to execute well, Staples could benefit more significantly,” said Nomura analyst Aram Rubinson, adding Staples also could pick up some sales to business and other contract customers.
He added Staples’ sales stand to benefit by 2% in North America retail and delivery for a minimum potential per-share profit boost of 10 cents a share.
Some analysts said Staples could also buy some stores that may close in markets that are dominated by Office Depot and OfficeMax and it could also hire some departing sales staff from the combined entity.
“We see three winners,” said Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter.
Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Colin McGranahan estimated Staples may see an annual per-share profit boost of less than 20 cents, “unless a potential (Office Depot-OfficeMax) merger integration were to go very poorly, thereby generating much more substantial incremental revenues for” Staples.
He estimated for Office Depot and OfficeMax, the value of the synergies could be as much as $2.5 billion to $4 billion, potentially “dwarfing the combined market cap of the two stocks.”
Analysts estimate the two companies could shut 25% to 30% of their combined store base.
“Consolidation is needed in an overstored and secularly declining industry,” said ISI Group analyst Greg Melich.