Outback Steakhouse owner’s stock rises after activist Starboard Value buys stake

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An Outback Steakhouse truck sits parked outside a restaurant in New York.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands rose 9% in premarket trading Friday after an activist investor disclosed its interest in the restaurant company.

Starboard Value now owns 9.9% of Bloomin’s shares, according a regulatory filing.

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In recent quarters, Bloomin’s sales growth has slowed. Earlier in August, the company reported that its U.S. same-store sales grew just 0.8% in the second quarter as traffic to its restaurants shrank.

In addition to Outback, Bloomin’ also owns Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar.

Going into Friday, Bloomin’ shares have risen 27% this year, giving the company a market value of more than $2.2 billion.

It’s unclear what changes Starboard plans to push for at Bloomin’ Brands at this point. Past activists investors targeting the company, including Jana Partners and Barington Capital Group, have tried to pressure Bloomin’ to cut costs and spin off some of its brands.

Starboard Value has a proven track record of successful turnarounds at restaurant companies. In 2014, Starboard took control of Darden Restaurants’ board and implemented a number of changes, like improving Olive Garden’s breadsticks, that helped boost sales and the stock.

More recently, the firm struck a deal with Papa John’s in 2019 as the pizza chain sought to end a feud with disgraced founder John Schnatter and revive sinking sales caused by his scandals. Earlier this year, Starboard CEO Jeff Smith stepped down as chairman from Papa John’s board, and the company bought back most of the investment firm’s shares.

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