Panera shares rally 11% after the company announces a huge stock buyback plan

Panera just announced a bunch of “value enhancing initiatives,” and now the stock is going wild.

In after hours trade on Wednesday, shares of Panera were up as much as 11% after the company announced it would repurchase $US750 million worth of stock and re-franchise 73 company-owned restaurants.

Panera announced that it expects to repurchase $US500 million worth of stock in the next 12 months with a combination of cash on hand, cash from operations, and $US500 million of new debt the company plans to issue.

The company also upped its total repurchase authorization to $US750 million.

Panera will also re-franchise 73 restaurants, which means it will sell restaurants currently owned by the company to franchisees. This is a move that mitigates the company’s risk to more volatile costs like labour and food prices, allowing the company to simply take a cut of sales and provide other support, while individuals run the restaurant directly.

In a statement, Panera CEO Ron Shaich said, “Recently, Panera has been implementing a series of structural enhancements to improve our competitive position and expand growth opportunities.”

And shareholders are clearly excited after what’s been a tough year, with the stock down about 6% year-to-date before Wednesday’s big move:

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