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Why was Tribune Publishing (TPUB) Stock Soaring 52% Today?

The Gannett Company (GCI) has offered to acquire the Tribune Publishing Company (TPUB), which ownsThe Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, for about $815 million including the assumption of the company’s debt.

Gannett’s proposal is for $12.25 per share in cash — a premium of 63% to the company’s closing stock price on Friday of $7.52 per share. Tribune Publishing’s shares skyrocketed in premarket trading Monday and closed on the day up 52.93%.

 

According to a letter disclosed by Gannett, Tribune Publishing was unwilling to engage in discussions about a takeover.

“Given the opportunity to benefit from the significant premium and near-term liquidity, we are confident that Tribune’s stockholders will embrace our offer,” said Robert Dickey, the president and chief executive of Gannett. “We would prefer to negotiate with Tribune, but we have determined that making your stockholders aware of our all-cash proposal is necessary given Tribune’s attempts to delay constructive engagement.”

In a separate statement, however, Tribune Publishing said it had hired advisers to review the proposal: “The Board is now engaged, with the assistance of its advisors, in a thorough review. The Board is committed to acting in the best interests of shareholders and will respond to Gannett as quickly as feasible.”

Tribune Publishing was spun off from Tribune Company, now called Tribune Media, owner and operator of 42 broadcast stations, in August 2014 and saddled with about $350 million in debt. Since then, its stock has tumbled as Tribune Publishing’s newspapers, like many print publications, have struggled with declining circulation and dwindling print advertising revenue.

Michael Ferro, a Chicago entrepreneur, acquired a stake in Tribune Publishing worth $44 million back in early February. One of the notable decisions Ferro made was combining the role of editor and publisher across Tribune Publishing’s portfolio of newspapers, a decision that “raised eyebrows in the media world,” per a New York Times report.

According to Gannett’s letter, Mr. Ferro and Tribune Publishing’s chief executive Justin C. Dearbornhavehad numerous phone conversations with Gannett since the media conglomerate sent its first letter on April 12. The two have been unwilling to begin “constructive discussions” with Gannett, leading Gannett to go straight to Tribune Publishing’s shareholders.

Tribune Publishing has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) and Gannett has a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

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