Blue Apron jumps after hedge fund that pushed Whole Foods into Amazon's arms buys a stake

Key Points
  • Jana reported a 600,000-share stake in Blue Apron as of June 30.
  • If it held all of the shares until now, they would be worth 43 percent less than at the end of the second quarter.
  • Blue Apron shares have struggled on fears about the effect of the Amazon-Whole Foods merger.
Barry Rosenstein
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

When Whole Foods Market agreed to sell itself to Amazon, the deal was seen as a death knell for Blue Apron's forthcoming IPO.

So it was surprising to see that the same activist hedge fund that had been pushing Whole Foods to sell itself had also taken a stake in meal-kit maker Blue Apron during the second quarter.

On Monday, Jana Partners, led by Barry Rosenstein, disclosed ownership of 600,000 shares of Blue Apron, valued at about $5.6 million at the end of June. The stake was disclosed in Jana's so-called 13-F filing, a quarterly regulatory filing by investment managers detailing their holdings.

It is unclear whether Jana still holds Blue Apron or whether it sold any or all of the shares during the six weeks that have elapsed since the end of the second quarter. A CNBC request to the firm seeking additional details was not immediately answered.

Blue Apron shares gained as much as 5 percent after the stake was disclosed on Monday. The shares have been cut nearly in half since the company priced its initial public offering on June 29. They began trading on June 30.

Jana disclosed a stake in Whole Foods in April, immediately pushing the organic grocery chain to consider a sale. In mid-June, Whole Foods obliged, agreeing to sell itself to Amazon for $13.4 billion, or $42 a share in cash.

A filing in early July detailing the background of the merger showed that Jana had not been informed about specific discussions between Whole Foods and Amazon. But Jana announced shortly after the deal was struck that it was selling its 26 million-share stake, for a profit of about $300 million.

Blue Apron launched its roadshow the Monday after the deal between Amazon and Whole Foods was announced. Many investors, fearful that the combination of Amazon and Whole Foods could eat away at Blue Apron's share, passed on the deal.

Blue Apron was forced to lower its IPO price to $10 a share after failing to find demand at the price range it had been marketing. The company's stock price has suffered ever since. It was trading at $5.29 as of midday Monday.

If Jana did still hold all of the shares it bought in the second quarter, they would be worth about $3.2 million, a 43 percent decline from the end of June. The 600,000 shares represent about 2 percent of the company.