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Why Advance Auto Parts Shares Jumped This Morning

By Brian D. Pacampara, CFA - Sep 30, 2015 at 11:58AM

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Activist investor has high expectations for the shares. But are they reasonable?

What: Shares of Advance Auto Parts (AAP 0.74%) soared nearly 13% on Wednesday morning after Starboard Value LP disclosed a 3.7% investment in the auto parts retailer.

So what: Starboard is taking the stake because it feels that current market price of Advance Auto doesn't fully reflect the value of its businesses, triggering plenty of excitement on Wall Street that the prolific activist investor will keep pushing management until it does. In fact, Starboard suggested that if Advance Auto simply realizes margins and price multiples in line with close rival O'Reilly Automotive, theshares could be worth more than double their current price.

Now what: Starboard said that it will discuss the Advance Auto opportunity in greater detail at the C4K Sohn Canada Conference 2015 later Wednesday. "In our presentation, we discuss how Advance's operating margins are approximately 800-900 basis points below its closets peers, O'Reilly Automotive and AutoZone, and our belief that Advance can close the bulk of that gap over the next several years by implementing a series of operational improvements," wrote Starboard Managing Member Jeffrey Smith. "Despite this tremendous margin improvement opportunity and a best-in-class business mix, Advance currently trades at an approximately 2-5 turn discount to its peers on an EBITDA multiple basis." While I'd certainly wait for the short-term enthusiasm to fade a bit, Starboard's involvement might be a powerful long-term catalyst worth betting on.  

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