After five years of shrinking sales and 2016's failed merger with Office Depot(ODP) - Get Report , rumors are swirling that office supply retailer Staples (SPLS) is considering a sale. Investors certainly hope this will come to pass--shares of the troubled company shot up by more than 15% on Tuesday.

According to a source familiar with the matter, Staples is in talks with private equity firms concerning the sale of the rest of its business. Staples has been ailing for years, thanks to increased competition from the likes of e-commerce retailers such as Amazon(AMZN) - Get Report and big-box stores like Walmart(WMT) - Get Report .

Back in 2015, the company announced that it planned to merge with rival Office Depot in a deal worth an estimated $6.3 billion. But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) moved to block the merger at every step, claiming that the deal would violate antitrust laws. Last year, the merger was finally called off.

Since then, Staples has been rigorously cost-cutting and restructuring. And that has largely included the sale of parts of its business--Staples has sold much of its U.K. and European businesses to private firms. And it has also announced plans to sell more than 50 of its North American locations.

The company has also continued to shift away from depending on sales of paper, supplies and hardware to consumers and has instead been focusing on its business-to-business arms. Staples has attempted to increase its online business with its own answer to Amazon's WiFi-enabled Dash button, the Staples Easy System. The button allows small and medium-sized businesses to order office supplies with the touch of a button.

But Staples' sales have continued to shrink--during the most recent quarter, the company had a net loss of $615 million and a year-over-year sales decline of 3%.

Staples' market cap sits at around $6.1 billion. According to The Wall Street Journal, it could fetch up to $7 billion--or even more--from private equity bidders.

CEO Shira Goodman has announced that she intends to boost the company's internet sales, from 60% to 80% by 2020 while serving the relatively underserved small business supply niche. A sale to a private equity firm could help the company reinvent itself as a significant e-commerce player.

Investors who enjoy a bit of speculation might want to buy Staples shares as they settle down from Tuesday's rumors. In the event of an actual sale, they might hand investors some tidy gains.


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The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.