Leonard Green takes stake in BJ’s

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A private equity firm that has invested in several retailers has taken a 9.5 percent stake in BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc and said it may propose taking the warehouse club operator private.

BJ’s shares jumped 13 percent to their highest level in more than two years on Thursday following a regulatory filing by Green EquitLeonard Green & Partners.ies Investors V L.P. announcing the stake. The fund is the fifth fund from private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners.

According to the filing, the firm thinks BJ’s shares are undervalued and it will try to talk with BJ’s about several options, including taking the company private, new financings and other transactions.

A spokeswoman for BJ’s, the third-largest U.S. warehouse club operator, could not immediately be reached for comment.

BJ’s shares were up $4.90 to $41.91 in midday trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

BJ’s has faced pressure as supermarket chains and Wal-Mart Stores Inc have slashed prices to attract consumers amid high unemployment and a tepid U.S. economy.

Through Wednesday, BJ’s shares were up 14.8 percent in the past year, compared with a 19.8 percent increase for rival Costco Wholesale Corp

Leonard Green & Partners has about $9 billion in equity capital under management. Founded in 1989, it has invested in 51 companies with aggregate value of $43.4 billion.

Retailers the firm has invested in include Whole Foods Markets Inc, Rite Aid Corp., Sports Authority, Davis’s Bridal, Neiman Marcus and the Container Store, according to the firm’s website.

(Reporting by Brad Dorfman; editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Robert MacMillan and John Wallace)