Publix to buy Whole Foods Market? Rumors swirl in business world

Rumors are swirling that the Publix supermarket chain could buy Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods' stock rose 4.7 percent to $40.19 in heavy volume on Thursday and options volume surged, according to Reuters, citing the options analytics firm Trade Alert.

Trade Alert president Henry Schwartz said Friday the stock was up 2 percent in early trading and interest in options was triple the normal amount, fueling the unconfirmed report.

"Option flow reflects speculation that it may be possible, but there's always two sides of the coin," he said., which provides financial commentary and analysis, first reported Thursday "hearing chatter that privately held Publix is interested in WFM." Without elaborating, it also said, "we would be skeptical of the rumor."

Lakeland-based Publix had no comment.

"It is a rumor, and we do not comment on rumors," said Publix spokesman Brian West, in an e-mail Friday.

Jeremy Jones, Florida spokesman for Whole Foods, described the speculation as "rumors with no merit."

Publix has 1,077 stores in the Southeast, including 753 in Florida, where the store is most dominant. Based in Austin, Texas., Whole Foods has 383 stores across the United States and several in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Compared to Publix, a full-service supermarket, Whole Foods focuses on specialty, organic and freshly prepared foods.