Amazon to Buy Target in 2018: Analyst

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Venture capital firm Loup Ventures issued its list of predictions for 2018 on Monday. As well as forecasts for more investment in artificial intelligence (AI) led by Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL), a ramp to more than 150,000 Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) Model 3 sedans and more announcements from major automakers about more electric cars, there is this one: “Amazon Will Acquire Target.”

Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) currently sports a market cap of $563.5 billion to Target Corp.’s (NYSE: TGT) $35.5 billion. Amazon spent nearly $14 billion in 2017 to buy Whole Foods, and the e-commerce giant should have little trouble putting together financing for a deal that would wind up being more than double that.

Loup Ventures admits that the timing of such a deal is difficult to pin down, but “seeing the value in the combination is easy.”

Here’s how Loup sees that value:

Amazon believes the future of retail is a mix of mostly online and some offline. Target is the ideal offline partner for Amazon for two reasons, shared demographic and manageable but comprehensive store count. As for the demographic, Target’s focus on moms is central to Amazon’s approach to win wallet share. Amazon has, over the years, aggressively pursued moms through promotions around Prime along with loading Prime Video with kid-friendly content. As for retail stores, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods 470 stores along with testing of the Amazon Go retail concept is evidence that Amazon sees the future of retail as a combination of mostly online and some offline.

Loup adds a 15% premium to Target’s market value and puts the size of an offer at $41 billion. Amazon paid a 27% premium when it acquired Whole Foods, so that estimate may be on the low side.

What Amazon gains with an acquisition of Target is around 1,900 retail locations. That still leaves the combined company’s store count of about 2,300 well short of Walmart’s worldwide store count of more than 11,000.

Looking at sales, Loup reckons Walmart’s U.S. total to be around $315 billion for 2017, while Amazon’s North American sales should total around $105 billion and Target’s around $71 billion. Antitrust regulators won’t have a problem with that.

One possible hurdle is President Trump’s undisguised dislike of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, a revitalized nemesis for the president. The commander-in-chief would certainly be vocal in his opposition to any deal Amazon might want to make, but whether that would be enough to kill a deal is arguable.

Target stock traded up more than 2% early Tuesday, at $66.79 in a 52-week range of $48.56 to $74.24.

Amazon traded up about 1% to $1,181.42, in a 52-week range of $747.70 to $1,213.41.