Best Buy Buyout? Traders Jump On False Report, Any Deal Delayed Until 2013

 @angeloyoung_a.young@ibtimes.com on December 14 2012 3:12 PM

This week may have seen the last bump of the year in the share price of Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE:BBY). It could be all downhill for the rest of the holiday season and possibly beyond after the uncertainty over whether the struggling electronics retailer will be bought by its founder Richard M. Schulze became certain Friday: no deal, if any, until February.Friday's news erased the previous day's 18 percent jump in share price to more than $14, the highest one-day rise in four months for the Richfield, Minn.-based company, on speculation Schulze was about to make a bid for the company before Sunday, the previous deadline for making an offer until Friday morning’s announcement.

The spike was so sharp it drew scrutiny by Fortune magazine, which speculated that the flurry of after-market activity on Wednesday -- before news about a possible Friday buyout offer was made public -- suggested insider trading. If true, the traders acted on the wrong information that was later reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The newspaper cited an anonymous source saying a buyout offer was imminent. (The volume could also be explained by after-market traders betting on a preannouncement spike on the last two days before the Sunday deadline.)

But instead of announcing a buyout offer, Best Buy said the cooperation agreement that allows Schulze due diligence access to company records and time to come up with investors and a proposal was extended for a second time since the agreement was made Aug. 28.

“Both parties believe that allowing Mr. Schulze to bring his offer after the holiday season and fiscal year end is in the best interests of shareholders,” the company said in its statement.

Now Schulze can make an offer between Feb. 1 and Feb. 28, the day the company will release its fiscal full-year results.This allows the buyout team time to examine the results of the holiday selling season, which will be announced Jan. 11.

Over the summer, when the company’s stock was trading around $20, Schulze said he would pay $24 to $26 a share, or about $8.5 billion. With the stock trading under $12, the asking price has also gone down, reportedly to between $5 billion and $6 billion. This excludes the $2.2 billion in debt that would have to come with the deal.

Schultze, who founded the company in 1966, owns 20 percent of the shares. He has reportedly approached private-equity firm partners Apollo Global Management LLC, Leonard Green & Partners LP, and TPG Capital LP. Cerberus Capital Management LP has also been named as being in negotiations by the Minneapolis paper. His top advisers for the deal include former Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson and former company President Al Lenzmeier.

Friday’s announcement that turned the rumor of a buyout offer into a certainty that a buyout would not take place until next year caused investors who rushed to cash in on a potential buyout offer on Thursday to dump the shares. It sent the stock price back down to nearly the 52-week low it hit on Nov. 21 after the company announced dismal third-quarter earnings of just $12 million, or 3 cents a share, down 97 percent from last year, and lowered its guidance. The company, facing stiff competition from online retail for consumer electronics, has seen its stock price plummet nearly 48 percent this year. Shares are now trading at levels unseen in nearly 10 years.

Best Buy shares closed down $2.07, or 14.66 percent, to $12.05 on Friday.

Join the Discussion