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Panera Bread JAB buys US restaurant chain for $7.5 bn

The transaction adds to JAB's considerable holdings in the US food and restaurant business.

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Panera Bread store play

Panera Bread store

(The Odyssey Online)

European fund JAB Holdings agreed to acquire US restaurant chain Panera Bread for $7.5 billion, the companies announced Wednesday.

Panera will be a privately held company following the transaction and continue to be operated independently by its management team.

The transaction adds to JAB's considerable holdings in the US food and restaurant business.

A leader in the "fast-casual" restaurant mode that combines speed with freshly-prepared food and a savvy marketer of its avoidance of artificial ingredients, Panera has managed gradual growth over the last five years while larger chains have struggled.

Sales rose 4.2 percent to $2.8 billion in 2016. Panera has more than 2,000 restaurants in the United States and Ontario, Canada.

"Over the last five years, we have developed and executed a powerful strategic plan to be a better competitive alternative with emerging runways for growth," said Panera chief executive and founder Ron Shaich.

"The themes we have bet on - digital, wellness, loyalty, omni-channel, new formats for growth - are shaping the restaurant industry today."

JAB chief executive Olivier Goudet praised Panera's "vision for the future" and strategic efforts.

Financed by the German family Reimann and led by Goudet, JAB already holds extensive US food assets, including Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Peet's Coffee & Tea.

The transaction priced Panera at $315 per share in cash, a 30 percent premium to the 30-day average stock price prior to March 31, when news reports speculated about a possible takeover.

Shares of Panera rose 13.9 percent to $312.00 in morning trade.

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