Shares of rival office supply chains Office Depot and OfficeMax soared in premarket trading Tuesday following widespread reports that the two companies are in merger talks.

OfficeMax  shares rallied 20%, while shares of Office Depot, the larger of the two, surged 27%.

Office Depot has 1,262 stores worldwide, though only 131 of those are outside the United States. It has 39,000 employees, and 2011 sales of $11.5 billion, the last full year for which it has reported results.

Office Max has 978 stores, 29,000 employees and 2011 sales of $7.1 billion.

The talks come as mergers and acquisitions have picked up. Just last week, US Airways  announced a merger with American Airlines parent AMR, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway  announced it was buying ketchup maker Heinz, and Comcast  announced a $16.7 billion deal for the 49% of NBC Universal that was still owned by General Electric.

Both Office Depot and OfficeMax are dwarfed by Staples, which operates 2,248 stores worldwide and had 2011 sales of $25 billion. Staples has also face increased competition from online retailers, such as Amazon. Staples shares were also up nearly 13% in premarket trading.

The merger talks were widely reported Monday, when U.S. markets were closed for a holiday.



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