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Blue Apron Stock Is Surging Thanks to a New Activist Investor

August 14, 2017, 5:28 PM UTC

Jana Partners, which reaped a $300 million windfall after selling its Whole Foods Market Inc. stake, stuck to groceries in the second quarter with new stakes in embattled meal-kit delivery service Blue Apron Holdings Inc. and organic grocer Sprouts Farmers Market Inc.

Jana said Monday in a regulatory filing that it acquired a 2 percent stake in Blue Apron, whose shares have fallen nearly 50 percent since their debut in June as the New York-based company struggles to persuade investors it can win the hearts of American cooks. The firm has spent heavily on marketing to educate consumers on the concept and distinguish itself from dozens of competitors.

Blue Apron shares rose as much as 5.3 percent after the stake was disclosed.

The sometimes-activist hedge fund, founded by billionaire Barry Rosenstein, also said it owns about 593,000 shares of Sprouts, which earlier this year held preliminary talks to be taken private by Cerberus Capital Management and merged with its Albertsons Cos. brand, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

Jana also reported new positions in companies including First Data Corp., Molina Healthcare Inc. and DXC Technology Co. It sold its holdings in Willis Towers Watson Plc, Computer Sciences Corp., and Aetna Inc., among others.

Jana Partners exited its entire Whole Foods position after Inc. agreed in June to acquire the company for $13.7 billion. With Whole Foods shares boosted by’s premium, Jana Partners — within a matter of months — pocketed about $300 million on its investment in the grocer. At the end of June it still held 23.3 million shares in the company, Monday’s filing showed.

New York-based Jana Partners has also taken a 5.8 percent position in natural gas driller EQT Corp. and is pushing that company to scrap its $6.7 billion takeover of Rice Energy Inc. It wants EQT to instead pursue a spinoff of its pipeline business.

The firm also has active positions in medical equipment manufacturer Zimmer Biomet Holdings Inc., biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., jeweler Tiffany & Co. and Blackhawk Network Holdings Inc.