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Blue Apron shares dip as Amazon files for meal-kit trademark

The New York Stock Exchange is seen in this file photo.

Mark Lennihan/AP

Blue Apron Holdings Inc. dropped as much as 12 per cent after Inc. filed a trademark application for prepared food kits, the latest sign that investors are concerned about newly public Blue Apron's prospects.

Shares of the meal-kit delivery company sank as low as $6.51 (U.S.), a 35-per-cent drop since its initial public offering. Amazon Technologies Inc., an Amazon subsidiary, filed a July 6 trademark application for "prepared food kits composed of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruit and/or vegetables … ready for cooking and assembly as a meal."

Blue Apron delivers boxes of preportioned ingredients and instructions to cook meals at home. The meal-kit company already competes with similar startups as well as grocery delivery services offered by Amazon's Prime service and Whole Foods Market Inc.'s partnership with Instacart Inc. While tech companies routinely file trademark applications and don't act on them, Amazon's move indicates it may directly compete with Blue Apron in the future.

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Blue Apron went public at $10 a share on June 28, days after Amazon announced a $13.7-billion offer for Whole Foods. The deal sent grocery stocks tumbling and ratcheted up skepticism about Blue Apron's prospects.

The New York-based company had tried to quell fears about potential competition from the e-commerce giant on its IPO roadshow by telling investors that its offering is different than basic grocery delivery, a person familiar with the matter said at the time. Amazon's interest in meal kits directly undermines that pitch.

Blue Apron initially aimed to go public with a valuation of as much as $3.2-billion, but investors weren't willing to pay up as concerns about competition from a combined Amazon-Whole Foods seeped into the market. After the second-biggest cut in IPO price in at least five years, Blue Apron listed with a valuation of $1.9-billion. Just 12 trading days later, the company is worth less than $1.3-billion.

The fall in share price value could have additional implications for the unprofitable meal-kit-delivery company. Blue Apron said in its IPO prospectus that it believes its cash and borrowing capacity will be sufficient for at least a year. If the company becomes strapped for cash, it may increase its borrowing capacity under a revolving credit facility or raise additional funds through equity or debt financing arrangements, the filing said.

Blue Apron had sought additional available credit before the initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter. Some firms declined to lend the company money because it was seen as too risky, while others weren't willing to extend as much as was requested, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing a private matter.

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