Potbelly Corp. (PBPB) - Get Potbelly Corp. Report has received multiple expressions of interest from private equity firms who are considering bids to acquire the restaurant chain at prices in the mid-teens, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The expressions of interest, if ever consummated, represent a premium to Potbelly's recent trading price of $12.50 a share.
Potbelly announced in August that it had hired JPMorgan Securities LLC to advise it on a strategic review. The company's CEO at the time, Aylwin Lewiswas, also left in August.
On Dec. 1, Potbelly announced that its board of directors had appointed a new CEO, Alan Johnson, who had served as CEO of BevMo!, a specialty alcoholic beverage retailer. The appointment of Johnson suggests that Potbelly could be focusing on remaining independent upon the conclusion of its strategic review.
The potential offers come after Potbelly announced Oct. 5, that it had added Joseph Boehm of activist fund Ancora Advisors LLC to its board and strategic review committee, in a move that will likely increase the company's odds of getting some deal done, though roadblocks remain.
Boehm's position on the strategic review committee is part of a larger settlement between Ancora and Potbelly. The firm cannot acquire more than 9.9% of Potbelly's shares and must keep its stake above 3% or else it will lose its seat. The board goes to eight members from seven with the appointment.
The Cleveland-based activist fund holds a 4.4% stake in Potbelly and has asked it to consider refranchising at least part of its 413 company-owned locations and improve margins through the use of technology. The firm has said that if Potbelly did not enact these changes, it would push for a sale.
Potbelly has seen sales lag recently and it operates in the overcrowded fast-casual vertical where more tantalizing targets may be on the market.
Analysts recently carried a wide range of price targets for Potbelly spanning $11 per share to $17 per share, meaning Potbelly could be worth as much as $426 million based on its 25.1 million shares outstanding. The company has no debt and cash of about $21 million as of June 25.
Potbelly did not return a request for comment.
* Michael Brown contributed to this report
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