Panera Bread (PNRA) will be the latest food brand gobbled up by European conglomerate JAB Holdings.
The salad and sandwich chain said on Wednesday it will be acquired by JAB Holdings for $315 per share in cash in a transaction valued at about $7.5 billion. The purchase prices represents a 30% premium to Panera's 30-day average stock price as of March 31, the last trading day before speculation arose about a potential transaction.
Shares of Panera surged as much as 14% to $311.87 in afternoon trading.
"Our success for shareholders is the byproduct of our commitment to long-term decision making and operating in the interest of all stakeholders, including guests, associates, and franchisees," Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich said in a statement. "We believe this transaction with JAB offers the best way to continue to operate with this approach. We are pleased to join with JAB, a private investor with an equally long-term perspective, as well as a deep commitment to our strategic plan."
Added JAB Holdings CEO Olivier Goudet, ""We have long admired Ron and the incredible success story he has created at Panera. I have great respect for the strong business that he, together with his management team, its franchisees and its associates, has built."
Panera Bread is a logical fit for JAB Holdings, the growing food conglomerate that owns Krispy Kreme, Keurig, Peet's Coffee, among other assets. Joining forces with JAB could bring the Panera Brand overseas and leverage its top-flight digital ordering capabilities across many other channels.
Here is what JAB Holdings probably saw in Panera Bread other than a strong leader in Shaich.
No restaurant recession at Panera Bread because its brand is so strong.
While others in the restaurant space have struggled the past year due to cautious consumers, Panera has thrived in large part due to its marketing of healthier ingredients.
Panera Bread's fourth quarter same-store sales rose 3%, and by 4.2% on the year.
For the fourth quarter, Chipotle's (CMG) comparable store sales fell 4.8%, and crashed 20.4% in 2016. McDonald's (MCD) U.S. same-store sales dropped 1.3% in the fourth quarter, and rose a meager 1.8% for the year.
Panera Bread removed all artificial ingredients from its menu in January, and recently starting labeling soda fountains with sugar and calorie counts.
Panera has a huge opportunity in delivery.
The company had delivery in 15% of its over 2,000 stores at the end of 2016, and plans to have it in 35% to 40% of stores by the end of this year.
"We have a mass market opportunity in delivery -- salads and sandwiches travel really well," Shaich told TheStreet in a recent interview. Further, the company has also started to rack up big sales via digital ordering. About 24% of Panera's sales are now done digitally.
Panera is also in supermarkets, big-time.
The company sells packaged food products at over 12,000 retail locations and online. Panera At Home, as the company calls it, has grown to a pretty sizable business for a restaurant chain known for its artisan breads and hearty soups.
Said Shaich in an interview with TheStreet last year, "When I go into a supermarket, I don't see any of the large food manufacturers -- from Kraft Heinz (KHC) to Campbell's Soup (CPB) to Nestle to General Mills (GIS) -- who are taking a comprehensive approach [to improving ingredients]. These guys are picking certain product lines to improve, or certain ingredients such as removing artificial colors but not flavors."