(Barrons - Dow Jones) Kroger's one-time largest shareholder apparently sold a slew of shares through an express lane in October.
Capital Research Global Investors disclosed last week that as of 31 October, it has slashed its holdings in the grocer to 33 million shares, a 3.7% stake, from 55 million shares at 30 September.
For many quarters over the past three years, Capital Research, a unit of institutional investor Capital Research and Management, has been Kroger's top shareholder, most recently at the end of the first calendar quarter of the year, according to S&P Capital IQ.
Capital Research had been investing in Kroger as far back as 2014, but it wasn't until a year ago, 31 October 2016 (in a strange Halloween symmetry with its much-reduced holdings), when Capital Research grew its Kroger stake to more than 10%, triggering a regulatory filing.
At the time, the investor held 95.6 million shares, or a 10.1% stake. By the end of 2016, Capital Research increased its Kroger position to 103.3 million shares.
Capital Research then rethought the investment as the stock slipped. Shares of Kroger have lost nearly a third of their value so far in 2017 through Friday's close, excluding dividends.
Pressure on several fronts
By the end of the third quarter of 2017, Capital Research had halved its Kroger holdings to 55 million shares, and then the October sales ensued.
Because it now owns less than 5% of Kroger, Capital Research is no longer obligated to disclose transactions in the stock. Capital Research could have sold its entire position by now. Kroger is experiencing pressure on several fronts, not the least from Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods Market.
Before you think that Kroger has lost the thread, consider that the company recently announced it will sell its own clothing line to compete against retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores. We've noted that at least one analyst sees Kroger buying back more of its stock. Apparently there are willing sellers.