In the stock market, fortunes can change quickly. Look no further than restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD). A month ago, BWLD stock had fallen more than 30% year-to-date to $100. Comparable sales trends were ugly. Margins were on watch due to high chicken wing prices. The outlook was bleak.
But then Buffalo Wild Wings reported a stellar quarter wherein margins rebounded dramatically thanks to a shift to boneless wings. That stellar quarter was followed up by rumors that Arby’s, owned by private equity firm Roark Capital, had made a $150-plus per share offer to buy BWLD.
Today, those rumors were confirmed. Buffalo Wild Wings has agreed to be purchased by Arby’s for $157 per share. The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of 2018.
Through this whole process, BWLD stock has roared more than 50% higher over the past month. It now trades just shy of the $157 takeover price.
Time to sell? Yes.
How BWLD Went From Ugly Duckling to Being Bought Out
Ever since rumors broke that Roark Capital was interested in Buffalo Wild Wings, I had high conviction that a deal would go through.
Roark Capital is heavily concentrated in the restaurant sector. Their portfolio is very diverse and includes quick-casual burger chains (Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s), formal dining chains (Il Fornaio), sandwich shops (Jimmy John’s), and BBQ restaurants (Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ).
But one notable hole in the portfolio is chicken. Roark had been a majority owner of chicken wing chain Wingstop Inc (NASDAQ:WING), but after Wingstop went public, Roark started shedding its position in the chicken wing chain.
Ever since then, Roark has been trying to fill the hole that Wingstop left in its restaurant portfolio. They tried to acquire Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc (NASDAQ:PLKI) last year. They lost that bid to Restaurant Brands International Inc (TSE:QSR).
Consequently, it was easy to see that Roark Capital was hungry for some chicken. The private equity firm wasn’t going to let another attempted takeover fall through.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Wild Wings stock was getting its groove back thanks to successful cost-saving efforts, which included a focus on boneless wings.
That is why I bought more Buffalo Wild Wings stock even after it popped up to $144 amid takeover chatter. I thought there was a high probability BWLD would be taken out above $150.
That happened, and now, the two companies have agreed on a $157 acquisition price. There really isn’t much speculation left. Given Roark Capital’s experience in restaurant-sector M&A, the merger is all but a done deal.
That is why Buffalo Wild Wings, trading at a mere 1% discount to the proposed takeover price, is a sell here.
Bottom Line on BWLD Stock
The big lesson here: fortunes can change quickly in the stock market. The smaller lesson: pay attention to M&A in the restaurant sector.
Following a lull in restaurant M&A activity after the 2008 financial crisis, acquisitions are back in vogue. By number of transactions, 2017 has been the busiest year for global restaurant M&A since 2006.
Who is the big push coming from? Private equity buyers, who have accounted for a fifth of all deals in 2017. Buffalo Wild Wings joins Ruby Tuesday, Inc. (NYSE:RT), Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (NYSE:KD), Panera Bread Co (NASDAQ:PNRA) and others as notable restaurant chains who have agreed to be taken private over the past several years.
Consequently, now may be a good time to be in the restaurant sector, as other stocks could follow in the footsteps of BWLD. What names come to mind?
I’m not overly bullish on those names, but I do think they are worth taking a deep look at here and now.
As of this writing, Luke Lango did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.