A bidding war over Pep Boys took a new twist Wednesday as the auto parts retailer snubbed Bridgestone but left the door open for it to top Carl Icahn’s $837 million buyout offer.
Pep Boys announced its board had determined Icahn’s Dec. 7 offer, valued at $15.50 a share, was “superior” to the $15-a-share proposal that Bridgestone made in October.
The merger agreement signed by Icahn “is not subject to due diligence or financing conditions and contains a ‘hell or high water’ antitrust covenant,” Pep Boys said in a news release.
But Pep Boys gave Bridgestone three days to make a counter-proposal. The deadline is Friday, 5 p.m. EST.
“The coming days will show how much Bridgestone is willing to pony up to acquire Pep Boys, a move that would push the Tokyo-based company deeper into the U.S. and create the world’s largest chain of tire and automotive centers,” Bloomberg said.
According to another Bloomberg article, investors are betting that Icahn may not be “hoping to wrest Pep Boys away as much as he’s trying to coerce Bridgestone into raising its bid so that shareholders get a better deal.” Icahn bought a 12% stake after the companies announced their merger agreement.
Pep Boys stock traded more than 5% higher than Icahn’s offer on Wednesday, Bloomberg noted, “sending a signal that the market thinks Bridgestone will cough up more money.”
If Bridgestone raised its offer to $16.50, that would add only $81 million to the deal price. The company has a $29 billion market value and about $4 billion of cash.
If Icahn really wanted Pep Boys, analyst Louis Meyer of Oscar Gruss & Son said, he probably would have offered $16 a share or more. “He didn’t make a blow-out bid,” he said.
CNNMoney said a bidding war would be good for long-term Pep Boys shareholders.
“Although the stock has soared this year on takeover hopes, shares are up less than 20% over the past five years,” CNNMoney wrote. “That’s pretty lousy given how much the market has surged.”
Pep Boys’ sales have been stagnant as the company has lagged bigger rivals such as AutoZone, O’Reilly, and Genuine Parts.