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Kroger, Target shares gaining ground after press report on merger talks

Shares in retailers Kroger Co. and Target Corp. are gaining ground following a March 23 report from Fast Company that the two companies are in merger talks. A source familiar with the situation told S&P Global Market Intelligence that there was "no truth" to the report.

Shares in Kroger were up about 1.6% at $23.76 in midmorning trade after climbing as high as $24.04 earlier in the session. Shares in Target were up 0.27% at $69.07 after rising as high as $70.10.

Both Target and Kroger declined to comment on the report for S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Fast Company reported that such a move would marry Target's e-commerce abilities with Kroger's national supermarket footprint.

The two retailers have been discussing a merger since mid-2017, according to the publication, citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the talks. While the companies are interested in closer cooperation, they remain undecided about whether a merger would be the best option, the sources told Fast Company.

CNBC reported separately that the two retailers have held meetings about a potential partnership involving same-day delivery company Shipt, which Target bought in December 2017.

The report comes just over nine months after Inc. announced its plans to buy natural- and organic-focused grocer Whole Foods Market Inc. Since then, other players in the grocery space and related ones have looked at ways to bolster their businesses, anticipating heightened competition from the Seattle-based e-commerce giant.

Kroger, which ranks among the U.S. grocery players with the largest share of annual sales, operates about 2,800 supermarkets and convenience stores across the U.S. under about three dozen banners. Target, meanwhile, operates about 1,800 stores across the U.S., with 80% of its annual revenue coming from sales of nongrocery items, according to an SEC filing.