Why Panera Is Boosting Delivery Effort Ahead of Acquisition

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With a $7.5 billion acquisition pending, Panera Bread Co. (NASDAQ: PNRA) said Monday morning that it will go ahead with plans to boost its delivery service by 35% to 40% by the end of this year. According to the announcement, Panera expects to add 10,000 new jobs to support the expanded service.

Earlier this month JAB Holdings Company announced that it had reached an agreement to buy Panera for $315 per share and that it expected the transaction to close in the third quarter. JAB already owns such well-known consumer brands as Krispy Kreme, Keurig Green Mountain and Peet’s Coffee.

At the time the acquisition was announced, JAB CEO Olivier Goudet said:

We strongly support Panera’s vision for the future, strategic initiatives, culture of innovation, and balanced company versus franchise store mix. We are excited to invest in and work together with the Company’s management team and franchisees to continue to lead the industry.

Given Panera’s announcement, JAB apparently meant what it said about the future and Panera’s strategic initiatives. But what about a rumored competitive bid for the company from Brazil-based 3G Capital, a favorite of investment guru Warren Buffet?

Where JAB has already said that Panera’s management is going to stay on board, 3G Capital’s usual style is to bring in its own management and cut costs as rapidly and deeply as possible.

Spending more to expand delivery service at this point almost certainly makes Panera less valuable to 3G Capital. Is this JAB’s way of poking a finger in the eye of a competitor and raising its bid without really spending more money? It certainly looks like it could be.

Panera’s stock traded down fractionally late Monday morning, at $314.05, in a 52-week range of $185.69 to $316.21.