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Best Buy’s surprise stock spike

Dec 13, 2012

FORTUNE -- Best Buy (bby) stock yesterday opened trading at $11.95 per share. Then it ping-ponged higher throughout the day, before closing 1.92% higher $12.18. Decent day, but nothing too notable. Then came the aftermarket, in which Best Buy shares spiked all the way up to $12.85 at around 5pm.

It wasn't until several hours later that The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Best Buy founder Richard Schulze plans to submit his PE-backed takeover offer within the next several days at between $5 billion and $6 billion.

Sorry for being overly-suspicious, but I’m overly suspicious. Pretty sure it’s because the SEC keeps nabbing people for insider trading related to merger announcements (including, but certainly not limited to, hedge fund managers).

Schulze originally was supposed to submit his bid in October. Then by mid-November. So it’s not as if traders should have been expecting the news yesterday.

It’s staggering to think about the number of people who could have access to the Schulze plans. Hundreds of folks working at the participating banks and private equity firms, plus untold numbers of lawyers, accountants, financial printers, etc. And perhaps some of their spouses, kids, friends, etc. Oh, and anyone that the Star-Tribune reporter called while prepping his story.

Again, maybe it’s all just a coincidence. But this has kind of become like judging a 1990s baseball player whose homerun total suddenly spiked: My bias is toward the bad.

It's also worth noting that $5 billion to $6 billion is a far cry from the $8 billion to $9 billion that Schulze was originally proposing. You know, before any of the money folks actually saw the books (and before the stock's November plunge).

I've previously written that Schulze must make an offer in order to save face in Minneapolis, but it's hard to imagine that the board will accept such a deep discount. After all, the company's current enterprise value is more than $6 billion once you include its $2.2 billion in debt. Unless, of course, the Star-Tribune only was reporting an equity value...

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