Activist investor Jana Partners takes stake in Macy’s, urges spin-off of digital biz

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Macy’s store in Herald Square in New York.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Activist investor Jana Partners has taken a stake in Macy’s and sent a letter to the department store chain’s board on Wednesday urging it to separate its e-commerce business, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC.

The person said Macy’s online business has already drawn interest from firms that would invest in it, in conjunction with a spinoff.

Macy’s shares closed Thursday up nearly 3%, having risen more than 105% year to date.

A representative from Macy’s declined to comment. Jana didn’t immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

In a presentation earlier this month, Jana said Macy’s online business could be worth about $14 billion, which is higher than $7 billion market value the department store currently has. Jana suggested the split at that time without saying anything about its stake in the department store operator.

Macy’s had told investors in August that it expected its e-commerce sales this year to be between $8.35 billion and $8.45 billion, after nearly doubling in the past four years.

Such a separation would mimic a similar one from the high-end department store operator Saks Fifth Avenue, which earlier this year spilt off its digital business into a separate company. The deal valued Saks.com at $2 billion, or about double its annual sales.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Jana’s stake in Macy’s earlier in the day.

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