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Walmart in talks to buy Vizio for more than $2 billion, WSJ reports

Published 02/13/2024, 03:18 PM
Updated 02/13/2024, 06:25 PM
© Reuters. Walmart's logo is seen outside one of the stores in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

By Siddharth Cavale

(Reuters) -Walmart is in talks to buy smart-television manufacturer Vizio for more than $2 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, a move that could bolster its advertising business and give it control of more than a fifth of the U.S. television market.

Vizio shares closed up 24.6% on Tuesday. They briefly surged 36% to their highest since November 2022. Walmart (NYSE:WMT)'s shares fell about 1%. The reported offer price is nearly 30% higher than Vizio's $1.54 billion market cap at close on Monday.

The talks come at a time Walmart is increasingly monetizing its reach and troves of shopper data to sell ads on its properties including its website and store assets such as digital diplays, connected TVs and radio.

Adding Vizio TVs could give companies including J.M. Smucker and Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ:KHC) more screens to display their ads to the more than 130 million shoppers that visit Walmart's 5,000 U.S. stores each week.

Since launching in 2021, Walmart's U.S. ad business, called Connect, has been growing at a double-digit clip, generating sales of about $3 billion last year, according to a report from Insider Intelligence.

Walmart's finance chief singled out Walmart Connect as one of its fast-growing, high-margin businesses that would change the composition of Walmart's profit and loss statement over the next five years. More of its future profitability is likely to come from selling ads on Walmart properties than by selling everyday essentials like milk and toilet paper that the company is known for, he said.

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Retailers' ad businesses, commonly called retail media networks (RMN), have become an attractive option for advertisers as traditional ad sellers like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) crack down on the amount of third-party data they share with advertisers.

As a result, RMNs have become the fastest-growing part of the U.S. ad industry are slated to generate about $60 billion in sales this year, according to Insider Intelligence estimates.

Owning Vizio would give Walmart access to an active user base of nearly 18 million people and help unlock Vizio's own software platform business that has annual advertising revenues growing north of 27% at a more than 60% margin rate, said Nicholas Zangler, an analyst at Stephens.

Vizio commanded the no. 1 shelf-share position at Walmart and nearly 70% of its TVs are sold at the retailer, the analyst said. By acquiring Vizio, Walmart could potentially control 22% of the U.S. TV market between its private-label Onn brand and Vizio, he added.

Walmart and Vizio declined to comment.

It was not immediately clear if Vizio products would be available outside of Walmart if a deal is inked.

The news is a negative for Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU), which also sells smart TVs and streaming devices, and has an exclusive deal with Walmart to sell products fulfilled by Walmart on Roku devices, Zangler said. Roku shares ended down about 9% on Tuesday.

Discussions between Walmart and Vizio are ongoing, and a deal may not happen, the WSJ report said, citing people familiar with the situation.

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The decision to sell Walmart will rest entirely on Vizio's CEO, William Wang, who founded the company in 2002 and holds majority voting rights, Zangler said.

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