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Published reports say that Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos. investment group has raised its ownership stake in Wild Oats from 9.2 percent to 14.9 percent.

According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, the increased level of ownership raises the possibility of “strategic transactions” that could lead to a merger between Wild Oats and other supermarket chains.

The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that Bear Stearns analyst Robert Summers believes that this could mean that Yucaipa plans to be more active in determining the company’s direction.

The language in the latest filing "suggests a more hands-on approach and greater involvement," Summers says. "This represents a dramatic change and could foreshadow more aggressive efforts by Yucaipa to increase visibility on the earning power of the underlying business."
KC's View:
Again, chess pieces around the board. What is interesting about this is that it seems likely that if any sort of “strategic transaction” were to take place, it would be between Wild Oats and some chain not in the natural/health foods business.