Safeway Inc. (SWY:US) had its biggest weekly rally since 2009 on speculation about a possible acquisition after the grocery chain changed payout mechanisms for executives in the event of a takeover.
The stock rose (SWY:US) 2.5 percent to $21.19 at the close, the second-biggest gain on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Safeway, based in Pleasanton, California, has advanced 7.5 percent this week, the biggest increase for that period since October 2009.
Safeway adopted a “double-trigger vesting acceleration” that may require executives to stay at the company to get their full vested payout if it is bought, according to a March 28 filing. The change, along with share buybacks and the promotion of the chief financial officer, may mean Safeway is considering a “corporate action,” Kenneth Goldman, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. who rates the shares neutral, wrote in a note today.
Safeway is an unlikely candidate for a buyout by a private- equity firm because of its pension liabilities, Edward J. Kelly, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG who rates the shares neutral, said in a note yesterday.
On April 9, the operator of more than 1,600 stores in the U.S. and Canada announced that Chief Financial Officer Robert L. Edwards would assume the role of president.
The expansion of duties “provides me an opportunity to concentrate more of my time on innovation and a range of strategic initiatives,” Chief Executive Officer Steven A. Burd said in a statement at the time.
Revenue at the second-largest U.S. grocery chain rose 6.3 percent to $43.6 billion last year. It has a market capitalization of about $5.7 billion.
Melissa Plaisance, a Safeway spokeswoman, declined to comment on takeover speculation. Regarding the double-trigger vesting mechanism, she said that Safeway “has been tracking best practices in corporate governance for quite some time.”
“This is something that has developed at a number of companies, and we think it’s one of the best practices out there,” she said.
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