Why Panera Bread Co. Stock Popped Today

By Markets Fool.com

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

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What's happening:Shares of Panera Bread Co. were up 11.8% as of 12:30 p.m. Thursday after the fast-casual dining chain announced "progress on a number of key value enhancing initiatives."

Why it's happening:First, Panera's board approved an increase of its share repurchase authorization to $750 million. For reference, as of Panera's fourth-quarter earnings report on Feb. 11, 2015, the company had roughly $533.4 million remaining under a previously approved $600 million repurchase authorization.Panera further said it expects to buy back $500 million in shares within the next 12 months, which would represent around 11% of Panera's total float at today's prices.Those repurchases will be made through a combination of cash on hand, operating cash flow, and $500 million of newly authorized debt -- the last of which Panera noted is to take "advantage of the attractive current interest rate environment."

Panera further stated it has entered into letters of intent to sell and refranchise 73 cafes, putting it well within its goal to refranchise between 50 and 150 cafes by the end of 2015. The sale of these cafes will come with a related one-time charge, but should be accretive to ongoing earnings and was included in Panera's previous full-year earnings targets. The proceeds of these sales will be used to repurchase shares incremental to the $500 million of aforementioned planned repurchases.

Next, Panera expectsits efforts to monitor non-strategic costs with the aim of reallocating support function resources to growth initiatives will result in a 5% reduction in core general and administrative expenses this year. In February, according to CEO Ron Shaich, Panera also hired an unnamed global management consulting and technology services firm "to review our technology plans, processes, procedures and costs."

Finally, Panera pointed out its desire to "regularly enlist shareholder input with the shared goal of delivering value," which is why it "recently engaged in constructive dialog with one of its shareholders, Luxor Capital Group, LP."

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"We support the actions that Panera's Board of Directors and management announced today," stated Luxor's founding CEO, Christian Leone. "We have long admired the Panera brand and appreciate the constructive dialog we have had with the Company."

And that seems fair enough. If Panera's share repurchases alone over the next year weren't enough to merit the nearly 12% pop, the supplementary positive effects of its refranchising and efforts to achieve operational efficiencies should only further fuel shareholders' excitement.

The article Why Panera Bread Co. Stock Popped Today originally appeared on Fool.com.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Panera Bread. The Motley Fool owns shares of Panera Bread. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.