Walmart's Latest Move Into Banking May Be More Successful This Time

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Walmart (WMT) is making yet another entry into banking, but will the move help revive the retail giant?

Walmart's stock has moved higher since the company announced Wednesday that it will begin offering low-cost checking accounts under the name GoBank, which uses the mobile banking platform operated by Green Dot (GDOT) . That company's stock also rose on the news. 

Watch the video below for more on Walmart's deal with Green Dot:


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For those who follow Walmart, this is deja vu all over again. Almost two years ago, Walmart announced a similar deal with American Express (AXP) , a cash card dubbed "Bluebird" aimed at the 51 million people considered "under-banked" by the FDIC.

Walmart now sells for just $1 a share more than the peak reached right after the American Express deal was announced. The card is still available, according to the Walmart Web site, but it is not advertised prominently in stores. Does the same fate await GoBank?

Maybe not. The Green Dot banking platform is solidly placed in this market. The press release calls this a "nationwide rollout" and says the account is available "exclusively" from Walmart, terms not used in the Bluebird announcement. 

Maybe this time it will be different.

New CEO Doug McMillon has been on the job for more than six months, since February 1. His hand-picked U.S. CEO, Greg Foran, has been on the job since August 9.

Walmart has the potential to change. It is opening in-store Care Clinics in competition with Walgreens (WAG) and CVS (CVS) . It is working on grocery delivery and in-store pick-up, competing with Amazon.com (AMZN) and Kroger (KR) . It is experimenting with new formats that could help it compete with Family Dollar (FDO) and Dollar General (DG) . It announced a new push into organic food in April that competes with Whole Foods (WFM) .

Yet analysts continue to ask whether Walmart remains a blue chip, with most having a hold rating on the stock. TheStreet has it rated as a buy at a rating of B+. Sales are up just 4% year-over-year, and profit growth has stalled. The stock's yield of 2.49% is now short of what you can get on a 10-year U.S. bond.

One analyst, Ronnie Moas of Standpoint Research in Miami, called it a strong sell in May. "I don't see anything happening anytime soon for me to change my view of them," he said today. "I don't think they will be able to grow their revenues 4% going forward." Walmart was asked about these criticisms but had not responded as this story went to press.

The new team is supposed to get Walmart past its public relations problems and scandals like the one that enveloped its entry into Mexico. It doesn't help when the vice president of communications has to quit in a resume scandal, when it is forced to pay a fine for overcharging on Coca-Cola (KO) , or when whistle blowers in a China food scandal lose their jobs. Labor agitation is continuing.

The question for investors is, does McMillon have the power to get Walmart growing again, or are the heirs of founder Sam Walton, who now control more than half the common, waiting to take it private before they let him act decisively?

At the time of publication, the author held positions in GOOG, GOOGL, KO and AMZN, although positions can change at any time.

Follow @danablankenhorn

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.


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