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Investors Bancorp buys out activist shareholder for $335.7M

Short Hills, N.J.-based Investors Bancorp Inc. is buying out an activist shareholder, leading analysts to note that investors may question whether the company would complete a sale anytime soon.

Investors entered into a $335.7 million agreement to repurchase 27,318,628 shares of common stock owned by activist shareholder Blue Harbour Group LP, and its affiliated investment funds, at a weighted average price of $12.29 per share.

In conjunction with the transaction, Peter Carlin, a managing director at Blue Harbour and its representative on Investors Bancorp's board, resigned from the board, according to a news release. Carlin said he had no disagreement with Investors Bancorp or the board.

Commenting on the repurchase, Sandler O'Neill & Partners analyst Mark Fitzgibbon wrote that the deal could leave some people wondering if it was because the company was unsuccessful in its effort to sell. The Wall Street Journal reported in November 2018 that the company was looking to sell.

Fitzgibbon noted that such speculation could weigh on the stock in the short term. He reiterated a "buy" rating with a price target of $14. His EPS estimates are 75 cents for 2019 and 89 cents for 2020.

Compass Point Research & Trading LLC analyst Laurie Hunsicker wrote that the buyback was "very favorable," driving an increase in the analyst's earnings estimate. At the same time, Hunsicker wrote that there could be weakness in the stock since some investors were likely holding out for a sale, and the buyback could suggest the company is "not likely a near term seller."

The Compass Point analyst reiterated a "neutral" rating for Investors Bancorp. The price target is $12 with EPS estimates are 75 cents for 2019 and 85 cents for 2020.

Investors Bancorp shares were down 2.6% in late afternoon trading.