Improving economy will boost The Pantry, analyst says

From staff reportsApril 29, 2010 

Shares of The Pantry rose today after an analyst raised his rating on the Cary-based convenience store chain.

The Pantry, which owns more than 1,600 stores in 11 states, is poised to benefit as the economy improves during the next 12 to 18 months, William Blair & Co. analyst Mark Miller wrote in a report to investors.

It also could become an acquisition target, wrote Miller, who raised his rating to "outperform" from "market perform."

Earlier this month, Casey's General Stores, an Iowa-based chain of convenience stores, received a buyout offer from Alimentation Couche-Tard. The Canadian corporation has more than 3,500 stores across the U.S. including Circle K.

Casey's officials have rejected the $1.9 billion offer as too low, but the bid has spurred speculation that other chains could be acquisition targets.

"If Couche-Tard is unsuccessful in buying Casey's, we believe it increases the potential that the company considers making an offer for The Pantry," Miller wrote.

Convenience stores have lagged other retail sectors, but should begin to see stronger demand for merchandise and gasoline as the job market improves and construction activity picks up, he wrote.

Also, The Pantry's new CEO Terry Marks has said it's a priority for the chain to improve its food offerings, which should bolster financial results.

The Pantry, which operates stores mostly under the Kangaroo brand, is scheduled to report quarterly earnings on Tuesday.

The company's shares rose 96 cents today to $16.29. That's the highest level since October and a 30 percent increase this month.

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