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Cabela’s is weighing a sale

Tony Wagner Dec 3, 2015

Outdoor gear chain Cabela’s has enjoyed a boost from gun sales the past few years, but an activist investor is on the hunt for a potential buyer amid poor sales and layoffs.

The Associated Press reports that Elliott Management is exploring its options, including a potential sale, after scooping up 11 percent of the company this fall. Reuters reported last month that competitor Bass Pro Shops might be interested.

Cabela’s stock fallen steeply this year, but got a boost with the news of Elliott’s stake and talk of a potential sale. Bloomberg noted that while the company is still family-run, it has amassed a rewards credit card subsidiary rivaling large department stores. It had $4.58 billion in credit card loans this fall, and Elliott is reportedly considering unloading that business separately from the stores themselves. An analyst told the AP that Cabela’s credit business alone is worth most of its share price.

The AP notes the whole sporting goods sector is sliding. Cabela’s has actually performed slightly better than most of its competitors, which have seen shares fall up to 35 percent this year. One expert told Bloomberg in October that Cabela’s needs to re-orient itself and appeal to outdoor enthusiasts who aren’t interested in hunting, but gun sales have kept its business up the past few years.

As part of their reporting on Wednesday’s rampage in San Bernardino, California, the Intercept found many companies, including Cabela’s, touting increased gun sales following mass shootings. Cabela’s CEO Tommy Millner told investors last year that stocking more firearms, including assault rifles, in late 2012 lead to a sales surge. President Barack Obama’s reelection and the massacre at a school in Newtown, Pennsylvania brought in new customers, he said.

Cabela’s is based in Sidney, Nebraska, a small town of about 6,800 in the state’s western panhandle. The Omaha World-Herald reported that Cabela’s headquarters accounts for about 2,000 jobs in Sidney — and its credit card business employs another 675 people in Lincoln — jobs that could leave is Cabela’s is sold.

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