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Panera calls off IPO, citing unfavorable market conditions

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SUNSET HILLS — Panera Brands, the parent company of St. Louis Bread Co., said Friday that it has called off a plan to go public.

Panera announced plans in November to file for an initial public offering in partnership with St. Louis native and Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer. The plan included merging with USHG Acquisition Corp., a shell company Meyer controls.

On Friday, Panera announced it was calling off the plan due to unfavorable economic conditions, and a faltering IPO market in recent months. The company said it will continue to explore and prepare for an IPO, should markets improve. Meyer said USHG will search for another group to partner with.

“We are disappointed that market timing was not on our side,” Meyer said in a statement.

USHG is a special purpose acquisition company, a type of entity more commonly known by the abbreviation “SPAC,” or sometimes referred to as a “blank check company,” that serves as a shell company for the business that is taken public. It’s a method of going public that was used by two other St. Louis-area companies recently: the agriculture firm Benson Hill and the educational technology business Nerdy. In more recent months, it’s seen a decline in popularity.

Panera and USHG allowed their agreement to end, officially, on Thursday. According to a notice USHG filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, it has until March 1 to combine with another company, or get stockholders to approve an extension.

The first St. Louis Bread Co. store opened in 1987, in Kirkwood. It sold to Au Bon Pain Co. in 1993. In the late 90s the combined company sold Au Bon Pain, moved its headquarters to St. Louis, and renamed itself Panera Bread Co. In 2017, the Luxembourg-based private equity group JAB Holdings bought Panera.

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