(Adds company background, stock price, adds NEW YORK to dateline)
By Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Liana B. Baker
BOSTON/NEW YORK, May 23 (Reuters) - Jana Partners said on Wednesday it was not invested in Casey’s General Stores Inc after speculation that the hedge fund had built a stake in the company helped push its stock price up more than 9 percent in afternoon trading.
“We do not own a single share,” a Jana spokesman said. Bloomberg earlier published a story saying the New York-based hedge fund had built a small stake in the company.
Casey’s could not be reached for comment.
Often, news or even speculation that a so-called activist like Jana Partners is building a stake in a company can move stock prices amid expectations the hedge fund will push management to make operational changes.
Jana, a New York-based hedge fund run by Barry Rosenstein, has not owned Casey’s in the last decade and has no current exposure to the chain of convenience stores, the spokesman said.
Casey’s share price climbed dramatically on Wednesday, rising as much as 7.7 percent to $104.23 before Jana denied being in the stock, which closed at $99.85, up 3.2 percent on the day.
Jana’s response to the Bloomberg story on Wednesday is noteworthy as investors often refuse to confirm or deny their positions, worried that other investors might step in front of them and make it more expensive to complete buying.
U.S. securities laws require investors who hold more than 5 percent of a stock to alert the public through a regulatory filing within 10 days of crossing the ownership threshold.
Speculation about Casey’s future has heated up this year after JCP Investment Management LLC, BLR Partners LP, and Joshua Schechter urged management to explore strategic alternatives, including a sale. They called the shares undervalued in an open letter written to other shareholders written in January. Shares have fallen 15 percent in the last 52 weeks.
Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Liana B. Baker Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis