NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Office Depot ( ODP) is the most likely retail takeover target in 2011, according to TheStreet readers. Following the resurgence of M&A deals in the retail sector towards the end of 2010, investors began speculating about the next acquisition. And according to 33.7% of voters, Office Depot has the greatest chance of being bought out in the New Year. The office supply retailer piqued Wall Street's interest after a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission signaled that a buyout may be on the horizon. In the filing, Office Depot said it entered into a new change-in-control agreement with CFO Michael Newman; President of International Charles Brown; and Steven Schmidt, president, North American business solutions; in order to "diminish the potential distraction due to personal uncertainties and risks that inevitably arise when a change of control is threatened or pending." >>Retail M&A: 17 Possible Deals in 2011 As part of the agreement, the three executives are guaranteed employment for a year after a change of control, paying them 12 times their highest monthly salary, plus a bonus equal to the highest one received in the prior three years. If they decide to leave, they will get their accrued salary and bonus, plus two times their base salary. The move follows another filing in November, which outlined the chief financial officer's retention agreement, and which provided for the immediate vesting of his two-year retention payout if his employment was terminated for a reason other than cause. In October, former CEO Steve Odland resigned a week after settling regulatory charges with the SEC that alleged Office Depot selectively warned analysts about disappointing profits. On Monday, Office Depot was upgraded by Janney Capital Markets to buy from neutral. Analyst David Strasser cited the appointment of a new CEO, an improving job market, potential consolidation within the office supply sector, and the company's moves to cut cost, increase private label sourcing and improve merchandise, as catalysts for the upgrade. GameStop ( GME) came in a close second. With 30.7% of voters expecting to see the video game retailer acquired. While speculation has waned substantial from earlier in the year, GameStop continues to be a stock to watch when it comes to M&A.
Best Buy ( BBY) is frequently named as its most likely suitor, and when the electronics retailer reported disappointing third-quarter earnings results, some analysts said the acquisition of GameStop could help revive its stumbling business. "In order to continue to grow, we think that it is essential that
Best Buy rapidly expand its strip-mall presence, and we think that a combination with GameStop would accelerate its growth plans," Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter wrote in a note. "Through such a combination, Best Buy would acquire thousands of strip-mall locations, and could cherry-pick conversions to the Best Buy Mobile format while managing the migration of video game sales to online distribution. The company could buy GameStop for a modest amount, and could learn a few things about games from a capable management team." While Pachter said he has no reason to believe a merger between the two is imminent, he does think the union makes "eminent sense." For the holiday season, Pachter expects GameStop to report same-store sales of 5% on Jan. 6, due to the launches of Kinect and Call of Duty: Black Ops. As a result, Pachter also predicts the company will raise its fourth-quarter and full-year guidance. The three big teen retailers -- American Eagle Outfitters ( AEO), Aeropostale ( ARO) and Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF) -- are less likely to be purchased in 2011, according to voters, with just 15.4%, 11.5% and 8.7% of the votes, respectively. --Written by Jeanine Poggi in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jeanine Poggi. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/jpoggi. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.