Buffalo Wild Wings stock slumps despite activist’s best efforts

Activist hedge fund Marcato Capital got everything it wanted out of Buffalo Wild Wings — except for a higher stock price.

Disappointed with the wing joint’s performance, Marcato, run by Mick McGuire, successfully pushed for three seats on the Minnesota-based chain’s board and got longtime Chairman and Chief Executive Sally Smith ousted.

But despite the seeming win, Buffalo Wild Wings shares are down 17.3 percent since the company’s shareholder meeting on June 2.

And the stock’s performance since last July, when Marcato initiated its stake, is down a very unappetizing 12 percent.

“The proxy fight and subsequent management shake-up has instilled more questions than answers, with investors now left with a feeling of ‘What now?’ regarding the company’s future,” Will Slabaugh, an analyst with Stephens, wrote in a note Wednesday.

Other analysts echoed Slabaugh’s view that leadership uncertainty is weighing on the company.

“That question has to be answered before you will see the support [in the stock],” Matthew DiFrisco of Guggenheim Securities told The Post.

And it is not expected that Buffalo Wild Wings — or Marcato — will be able to implement a quick turnaround.

“We worry that the transition of leadership and the implementation of a new CEO’s goals/initiatives will take time and could provide volatility through 2017 and much of 2018,” Slabaugh wrote.

Buffalo Wild Wings has been hampered by what it called “stubbornly high” wing prices last quarter.

Meanwhile, Marcato is pushing the chain to consider franchising up to 90 percent of its 1,200 locations, up from the chain’s current 50-50 mix of franchised/company owned.

While Slabaugh said Buffalo Wild Wings is one of his favorites among casual dining spots, he still lowered the chain’s rating to equal-weight and dropped its price target by $50 to $145.

Slabaugh also said that a downward guidance revision by the company is “likely.”

Buffalo Wild Wings shares responded to Wednesday’s downgrade by falling 3.3 percent, to $123.90.

Reps for Marcato and Buffalo Wild Wings declined to comment.

Source: http://nypost.com/2017/07/05/activist-cant-turn-around-buffalo-wild-wings-slumping-stock/

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