Whole Foods shares spiked on Monday after the Financial Times reported that Albertsons, the US supermarket operator controlled by buyout group Cerberus Capital Management, is exploring a takeover of the high-end American grocer.

The grocery chain’s shares were up 3.6 per cent following the report. No formal bid has been made yet, according to people briefed on the situation.

The interest comes two weeks after Jana Partners, the activist investor, revealed it had built a 9 per cent stake in Whole Foods and raised the possibility of a sale of the grocer. A deal could be one of the largest take-privates in recent years, people briefed on the matter told the FT.

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