Papa John's Is a Buy With or Without M&A Activity, PZZA Bull Says

Papa John's International Inc.  (PZZA) has jumped more than 9% over the past two sessions, including a more than 8% jump on Wednesday, Sept. 26, thanks to rumors that it is exploring a sale. But the stock is a buy regardless of the most recent developments, according to Jefferies analyst Alexander Slagle. 

Slagle has a "buy" rating and $58 price target on Papa John's, making his firm the most bullish on the stock. 

"We'd look past fear of near-term trends and be buyers of PZZA, as there continue to be opportunities for value creation as suggested in our analysis of potential refranchising and leveraged buyout opportunity scenarios," Slagle wrote. 

This view isn't dependent on whether the company is up for sale or not, though those talks will be a near-term tailwind for the stock, according to Slagle. He listed additional details about Papa John's franchisee assistance program, results of its corporate culture audit, further implementation of re-branding initiatives, marketing changes, value enhancements and menu innovations as other tailwinds

Papa John's has reached out to potential acquirers to ask them to submit offers, Reuters reported this week, citing people familiar with the matter. The company went as far to send out information about an auction to sell itself and expects to receive first-round bids by the end of October, according to Reuters. 

"Based on our conversations with investors, the most frequent view skewed toward private equity/private strategic buyers as the most likely scenario if PZZA were to be acquired. While many investors think it could make sense for certain public strategic players, negative headlines/sentiment might keep them away," Slagle wrote. 

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