Image source: TravelCenters of America.

What: Shares of TravelCenters of America (NASDAQ:TA) got a jolt this afternoon, climbing sharply after the board rejected a takeover bid. As of 2:53 p.m. ET, the stock was up 25.7%.

So what: TravelCenters, the nation's largest truck-stop operator, turned down a December offer from private equity Golden Gate Capital for $14 a share, more than double its closing price yesterday. TravelCenters stock has fallen since last summer as low gas prices have crimped margins, and the company has been pressured by other investors to unlock value.

RDG Capital Fund Management argued that the company should separate its truck-repair business and sell its real estate, and TravelCenters agreed to sell 30 of its rest stops last year to a REIT for $397 million and lease them back.

Now what: According to The Wall Street Journal, Golden Gate Capital is still interested in a deal, which is the likely explanation for today's surge. Investors are hoping that the gas-station operator will get a juicier premium from the private-equity company. Golden Gate has acquired other consumer-facing turnaround businesses recently, including Red Lobster from Darden Restaurants.

TravelCenters appears to be an ideal target for a turnaround specialist: It's missed earnings estimates in each of the last four quarters and analysts expect EPS to fall by more than half this year. With 255 rest stops and 228 convenience stores under the brand name Minit Mart, the company could be seen as an asset play. It was unclear if the board turned down the deal in hopes of a better offer, or if it was simply uninterested in selling the company.

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