* Engine Capital says Ann could fetch as much as $2.52 bln
* Says board should buy back stock if sale is ruled out
* Says board should consider buying back a third of shares
* Ann will not sell itself unless forced - analyst
* Shares rise as much as 7 pct
(Adds analyst comment, forward earnings comparison, updates
Aug 25 An activist investor urged women's
apparel retailer Ann Inc to sell itself, failing which
each of the company's board members should buy back stock as a
"sign of confidence".
Shares of the company, which owns the Ann Taylor and Loft
brands, rose as much as 7 percent to $40.12.
Engine Capital LP, which along with Red Alder LLC controls
"in excess of 1 percent" of Ann's stock, said in a joint letter
to the company that Ann would be worth $50-$55 per share to a
private equity firm or even more to a "strategic buyer".
That values Ann at about $2.29 billion to $2.52 billion - a
premium of as much as 47 percent to Friday's closing price,
which valued the company at $1.72 billion.
Ann should conduct a strategic review, said Engine Capital,
which describes itself as a value-oriented special situations
fund that invests both actively and passively in companies
But the fund said a committee to conduct the review should
consist only of independent board members with its own legal and
Engine Capital said it was "concerned about management
intentions and, in particular, are aware of (CEO Kay) Krill's
preference for the status quo of remaining a public company".
The fund's small stake will make it difficult to drive
change without support from other investors, said FBR Capital
Markets analyst Susan Anderson, adding that Ann wouldn't sell
itself unless forced.
"It just doesn't seem like it would be on their cards," she
In March, Golden Gate Capital became Ann's largest
shareholder with a 9.5 percent stake. The private equity firm
said while the stock was "significantly undervalued", it did not
intend to push for Ann to sell itself and that it was impressed
with the company's management.
Ann trades at 16.8 times forward earnings, a discount to its
peers' average valuation of 17.9 times, according to Thomson
Engine Capital said on Monday if Ann's board decided a sale
was not in the best interest of shareholders, each board member
should buy back stock roughly worth twice their annual
compensation as "a sign of confidence".
The fund also asked Ann to consider borrowing $600 million
to buy back a third of its stock at $40 per share, which it said
would "better enhance shareholder value".
The company said it welcomed communications with its
shareholders and that it was "committed to creating value" for
Ann's revenue grew 5 percent in the year ended February, the
slowest since 2010. But, quarterly profits have beaten market
estimates for the past two years, making it one of the few
apparel retailers that have weathered the enduring weakness in
U.S. consumer spending.
The stock was up 4.5 percent at $39.22 in afternoon trading.
The shares have barely budged since Golden Gate announced its
stake in the company on March 20.
(Reporting by Arnab Sen and Ramkumar Iyer in Bangalore Editing
by Gopakumar Warrier and Savio D'Souza)