Van Buren, Ark.-based USA Truck on Thursday rejected a $242 million buyout bid from Knight Transportation Inc. of Phoenix.
The total value of the proposed transaction includes USA Truck's $147 million of outstanding net indebtedness.
With no budge on the bid from USA Truck's board of directors, which hired seasoned industry professional John Simone in 2012 to lead the company's turnaround of four consecutive years of losses, Knight Transportation is taking the issue to the stockholders and offering $9 a share. That is a 50 percent premium to what it was trading before the announcement Thursday, but according to industry analyst Brad Delco of Stephens Inc., it is shy about $1.25 from the per share book value.
Shares of USA Truck were up Wednesday 9 cents to $6.46 per share. On Thursday, its stock closed at $8.80. Shares of Knight were also on the rise Thursday, closing at $16.60.
Kevin Knight, chairman and CEO of Knight Transportation, stated in a news release he was willing to offer a "modest" increase to the $9 a share offer. According to Schedule 13D filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Knight also disclosed Thursday ownership of 829,946 shares of USA Truck common stock, which represents about 8 percent of USA Truck's shares outstanding.
This is at least the third attempt for a buyout of USA Truck in a matter of years. Celadon Trucking of Indianapolis took $4.66 million in USA Truck shares in October 2011. Knight also made previous offers to purchase USA Truck, which was forced to negotiate a new credit line with Wells Fargo Capital Finance and PNC Bank in the third quarter of 2012.
"We are confident that USA Truck shareholders will share our strong belief that Knight's $9 per share all-cash, premium proposal would provide significant and immediate cash value that is significantly more attractive than USA Truck's standalone prospects," Knight stated in a release. "We look forward to the opportunity to engage constructively with USA Truck's Board to discuss our proposal and to agree upon the terms of a transaction that is beneficial for both companies and all of our stakeholders."
A USA Truck representative could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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