After a $7.5 billion deal, Panera's CEO says he can do even more as a private business

Panera CEO: JAB shares our values
Panera CEO: JAB shares our values

After striking a deal with JAB Holding to take Panera private in an estimated $7.5 billion deal, Panera's CEO said Wednesday he has proven he can run a successful public company but expects he can do more as a private business.

"Being private is a point of competitive advantage," CEO Ron Shaich said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." "This is going to allow us to do better work, it's going to allow us to stay committed to the 'do the delivery' initiative, to do the 'clean' initiative we're working on. It will enable us in so many different ways."

Earlier, JAB Holding announced plans to buy Panera Bread in a deal valued at about $7.5 billion, including debt, as it expands its coffee and breakfast empire. The privately held company, headquartered in Luxembourg, owns other brands such as Keurig Green Mountain and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

The 63-year-old Shaich said he wasn't looking to sell the company when he was approached by JAB, but going private was enticing.

Being out of the public eye would allow the company to work toward long-term goals without the pressure of having to show results quarter to quarter. Shaich said that focusing too much on the short term had been detrimental to the brand in the past.

"What is hard for me is the continual pressure on the short term," Shaich said. "When I started 25 years ago, I will tell you that a third of our investors were looking at this for a year longer. Today, I will tell you two-thirds of our investors are thinking literally quarter to quarter."

Panera's same-store sales growth was up 5.3 percent for the first quarter of 2017, more than 6.9 percent higher than the all-industry composite.

"We are taking market share," he said. "This is going to help us take more market share."

JAB offered $315 in cash per Panera share, representing a 20.3 percent premium to the stock's closing price on March 31, the last trading day before media reports of a potential deal.

The acquisition price is at the upper end of analyst expectations, which ranged from $260 to $350.

For shareholders who purchased the stock a decade ago at $57.34, the buyout price represents about 5½ times the original value. For those who bought the stock at its 2008 low of $33.80, the acquisition price is more than nine-fold.

Shares of the stock skyrocketed more than 13.8 percent Wednesday morning after surging to an all-time high of $312.98 at the market's open.

As Panera's fast casual business has grown steadily, its stock has risen. Over the last year, the shares gained nearly 30 percent. Since January, the stock has risen nearly 34 percent.

"The acquisition of Panera Bread by JAB Holdings represents a significant stake in the breakfast category, adding to Krispy Kreme, Caribou and Peet's coffee and tea investments," Darren Tristano, president of Technomic, told CNBC. "The move provides JAB Holdings with the significant opportunity to expand restaurants into the global markets and strengthens the positioning of retail products toward the supermarket space. ... The move makes sense for both companies and provides a strong runway for continued growth for the Panera Bread brand."

Panera has made a name for itself as a healthy brand, ditching all artificial additives and preservatives in its foods and, most recently, posting caloric and sugar information about its soft drinks.

The menu revamp has been a major part of Shaich's return to the chain in 2012. Shaich left the company in May 2010. The CEO told CNBC last week he has no plans to retire.

"I'm going to be here," he said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

Shaich said that JAB is "a wonderful partner for Panera."

"They're long term investors," he said. "They measure their investments in centuries, not decades. They are committed to our strategy. They're committed to our company franchise model. They're committed to our team."

Panera is the fourth major restaurant chain to be purchased this year. Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King and Tim Hortons, completed its $1.8 billion purchase of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen last week. Darden Restaurants, which owns chains like Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, recently said it plans to buy Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen for $780 million and Oak Hill Capital Partners is slated to acquire Checkers Drive-In in a $525 million deal.