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Nov 14, 2017

Buffalo Wild Wings shares soar on report of takeover bid

Chicken wings

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Buffalo Wild Wings' shares rose nearly 26 per cent in early trading on Tuesday, a day after a report said the company received a US$2.3-billion takeover bid from private-equity firm Roark Capital Group.

Roark's offer of more than US$150 per share was a premium of at least 28 per cent to the fast-food chain's close on Monday.

Wedbush analysts on Tuesday raised their price target to US$130 from US$115 and called the offer realistic. Buffalo's management could view it favorably as the stock's current price presents limited scope for same-store sales growth and margin trajectory, they said in a client note.

Activist hedge fund Marcato Capital Management has been pressuring Buffalo Wild Wings to change its leadership and improve its restaurant operations.

The company's Chief Executive Sally Smith said she would retire by the end of the year after Marcato won a bitter proxy battle in June that put three of its directors on the chicken-wing restaurant's board.

Roark's takeover offer follows several other deals involving private equity firms buying restaurant chains.

In October, casual dining chain Ruby Tuesday was bought by NRD Capital for about $335 million, while Luxembourg-based JAB Holdings took popular U.S. food chains Panera Bread and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts private in the last two years.

Roark has stakes in other restaurants chains like Arby's and CKE Restaurants, the owner of Carl's Jr, and could be a credible buyer of Buffalo Wild Wings, Stifel analyst Chris O'Cull said in a note.

"Buffalo Wild Wings could be appealing to Roark because of the brand's dominant positioning among sports-bars, potential to improve company-owned restaurant performance with better execution, and stable base of franchise income," O'Cull wrote.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.