Icahn Tops Bridgestone With $15.50-a-Share Bid for Pep Boys

Icahn Tops Bridgestone With $863M Pep Boys Bid
  • Shares trade above billionaire investor's $15.50-a-share offer
  • Japan's Bridgestone had offered $15 a share in October deal

Traders in Pep Boys shares are wagering that the bidding war for the automotive-parts chain may just be beginning.

Philadelphia-based Pep Boys’ shares closed at $16.30 in New York, 5.2 percent higher than the $15.50 a share that billionaire investor Carl Icahn offered to buy the company. That bid was 3.3 percent more than the $15-a-share proposal from Bridgestone Corp. that Pep Boys agreed to in October.

Investors are betting that Icahn, Bridgestone or someone else will be willing to pony up for a well-known brand with 800 locations in 35 states. While Pep Boys’ sales growth has slowed and its profitability has become sporadic in recent quarters, the chain offers a quick expansion opportunity for anyone looking to benefit from an aging U.S. car fleet.

Pep Boys added fuel to the speculation Tuesday, when it said that Icahn’s offer probably constitutes a "superior proposal." While that doesn’t mean Pep Boys is terminating its agreement with Bridgestone or changing its recommendation that investors vote for that bid, it lets the company further consider Icahn’s offer.

Before making his $863 million offer for the whole company, Icahn had been pursuing Pep Boys’ retail business. Icahn on Friday said that Pep Boys should sell its retail business to Auto Plus, a competitor he owns, saying the combination “presents an excellent synergistic acquisition opportunity." The activist investor, who disclosed a 12 percent stake in Pep Boys, said at the time that his representatives had and would continue to have talks with Pep Boys regarding “potential transactions” involving its retail segment.

Icahn may still just be interested in Pep Boys’ retail operation and plan to sell the tire and services division to other interested parties like Bridgestone, said Bret Jordan, an analyst at Jefferies LLC.

“I wouldn’t rule out that he owns it ultimately, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he owned it with the intention of auctioning off the service and tire business,” said Jordan, who has a hold recommendation on Pep Boys.

Icahn Bid

Icahn’s bid for the whole company isn’t subject to due diligence, financing or antitrust conditions, according to a letter from Icahn Enterprises included in a filing on Monday. The firm offered to enter immediately into the exact merger agreement that Pep Boys executed with Bridgestone, which proposed a deal of roughly $835 million.

A Pep Boys representative didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message. Bridgestone declined to comment beyond an e-mailed statement saying it was working to finalize its acquisition of the company, whose full name is Pep Boys - Manny Moe & Jack.

Bridgestone, the Tokyo-based tire giant, sees Pep Boys as a key piece of its push deeper into the U.S., where it already operates more than 2,200 tire and automotive centers. The merger would create the world’s largest chain of its kind.

Pep Boys on Monday confirmed that it had received notice of Icahn’s investment and said it may threaten shareholders’ ability to benefit from the Bridgestone deal. Pep Boys also identified Icahn as the party that it disclosed in merger documents that had made a $13.50-a-share offer for the company. Icahn on Oct. 22 declined to increase that bid and hadn’t since provided the company with a new proposal, Pep Boys said.

Auto Parts Boom

The potential bidding war comes at a time when U.S. auto-parts retailers are posting strong results, driven by an aging U.S. vehicle fleet that’s boosting sales to mechanic shops. Memphis, Tennessee-based AutoZone Inc. on Tuesday reported first-quarter profit of $8.29 a share, topping analysts’ $8.24 average estimate. The shares rose 5.8 percent to $796.09, the biggest gain since February 2014.

Auto Plus is an aftermarket parts supplier that Icahn acquired this year from Canada’s Uni-Select Inc. for about $340 million, and which he is using to drive consolidation in the industry. The company aims to be one of the largest automotive aftermarket companies in the U.S. in the next five years, according to its website.

Icahn Enterprises is a publicly traded master-limited partnership that holds stakes in the billionaire activist’s investments in industries including autos, energy, metals, rail cars, casinos, food packaging, real estate and home fashion. Icahn, 79, is worth about $21 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and primarily invests his own fortune, rather than relying on money from outsiders.

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