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UNFI to Switch Listings as Stock Languishes

Company to drop Nasdaq, take up NYSE in January
Photograph by WGB Staff

United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), whose stock has taken a beating on the Nasdaq exchange this year, will start over with a new listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 2019.

UNFI will continue to trade its common stock on Nasdaq through Jan. 1 and will trade under the same ticker symbol on the New York Stock Exchange beginning Jan. 2. The switch was announced by the Providence, R.I.-based company at its annual meeting this week.

The move comes only months after UNFI acquired rival Supervalu, a longtime NYSE traded stock, and would appear to accompany a message about how the company’s trajectory has changed concurrent with the merger. Typically, the NYSE is associated with long-term value, while the Nasdaq is associated with growth-oriented tech stocks.

“We are pleased to partner with the New York Stock Exchange as the new home for our stock listing and look forward to joining the collection of preeminent companies listed on the exchange as we continue to focus on generating long-term value for our stockholders,” Steve Spinner, UNFI chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

UNFI’s stock is down nearly 80% for the calendar year as investors fled perceived risk associated with the Supervalu deal, including taking on high levels of debt and inheriting some legacy issues with Supervalu, including the need to sell off its retail holdings and complete the integration of businesses Supervalu acquired before the deal.

Officials highlighted those issues as UNFI reviewed its first-quarter financial results earlier this month, but is putting off details on its plan to address them until an investor presentation scheduled for Jan. 16. In the meantime analysts following UNFI described a “murky” near-term situation at the company.

“UNFI’s management has an extraordinarily difficult road ahead integrating Supervalu while at the same time trying to stabilize the underlying businesses, all while under the pressure of a heavily levered balance sheet,” Wolfe Research analyst Scott Mushkin wrote in a recent note to clients. “We believe UNFI’s equity is likely to remain under pressure until investors get a clearer picture of the path forward.”

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