USA Truck to expire 'poison pill' plan

Posted: April 10, 2014 at 10:01 a.m.

USA Truck Inc. said Thursday that its board of directors has voted for early termination of its shareholder-rights plan, saying a company turnaround is well under way.

The Van Buren-based transportation and logistics company's rights plan, commonly referred to as a "poison pill," was implemented in November 2012 and is designed to make a hostile-takeover attempts costly and to maintain shareholder value. The plan will now expire at the close of business Friday, the company said.

The plan "was designed to give the Company time to execute our turnaround without unnecessary distractions, including unsolicited and inadequate takeover offers," board Chairman Robert Peiser said in a statement.

Knight Transportation, an industry rival, last September made a $9-per-share buyout offer that USA Truck said substantially undervalued the company. Since that takeover bid, investors Stone House Capital LLC and Baker Street Capital have increased their stakes in the company. Stone House Capital in January had purchased enough shares to fall just under the 15 percent threshold that would trigger the "poison pill," which would let other stockholders purchase discounted shares.

"Over the past 18 months, under the leadership of President and CEO John Simone, we expanded our senior management team and began capitalizing on USA Truck's blue-chip customer base, dedicated employees and substantial assets," Peiser said. "With the turnaround well underway, and with our stock price having appreciated well above the price existing at the time of the Plan's adoption, the Plan has served its intended purpose."

USA Truck has yet to release its first-quarter earnings, but the company pared its losses in the fourth quarter. The company has not turned a quarterly profit in more than two years, but President and CEO John Simone said in February that the company can return to profitability in full-year 2014.