Poultry group Quantum Foods, whose share price has rocketed more than 80% over the past month, said on Wednesday four members of its board had bought about R20m of the group’s shares so far this week, amid a scramble for shares by various third parties.

Share purchases by directors this week include an almost R15.8m spend by board chair Wouter Hanekom, who now holds 5.2% of SA’s largest egg producer.

The group, which has a market capitalisation of R1.3bn, had said on Tuesday at least one third party was in talks with some of its institutional investors in a bid to buy about a 32% shareholding.

Quantum said its understanding was that this third party was not interested in purchasing the rest of the group’s shares.

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It also said in a statement that Country Bird Holdings (CBH), which holds 30.81% of the group, had indicated in June it would make an offer to shareholders for the remaining shares it does not own, but then said two days later it would no longer do so. CBH was not the party in talks with institutional investors, the statement read.

Quantum CEO Hendrik Lourens said on Wednesday the company was unable to comment further at this stage, but added that the board believed in the company.

Other third parties are also seeking to raise their stakes in Quantum, the group said.

“The company is not currently in receipt of any offer or potential offer to acquire all or a portion of the company’s shares and does not consider it necessary, nor appropriate, to publish a cautionary announcement at this time,” Quantum said.

CBH had been interested in Quantum as it was an egg specialist, which would have been a good fit for the company as a poultry producer, CEO Marthinus Stander said on Wednesday.

“But within a day we learnt that there was another party involved, and it was not our intention to get into a bidding war,” he said. “We are comfortable with our stake, Quantum is a great company with great management,” Stander said.

“It proved to be a very good price for which we obtained that stake, especially in hindsight,” he added.

The frenzy in bidding for Quantum was intriguing, said Small Talk Daily’s Anthony Clark. The purchase of shares by directors indicated that Quantum either wanted to remain independent, or “is perhaps seeking its own white knight to fend off the foxes”.

Country Bird Holdings is no stranger to the sector as it made an acrimonious and unsuccessful bid for Sovereign Foods in 2016, but was thwarted by a rival private equity deal, said Clark.

Quantum was spun-out of Pioneer Foods in 2014 has since restructured its operations, including by exiting the cyclical chicken meat business. Its national spread of interests in eggs, broilers and animal feeds would appeal to many sector players, said Clark, who added that was perhaps leading to the current share bidding frenzy.

“The foxes have certainly targeted the hen house,” Clark said.

Quantum Food’s share price has risen more than 90% in the last three months, including a 25.26% jump on Friday, its best performance since listing in 2014.

In afternoon trade on Wednesday, the group’s share price was up 1.85% to R6.62, having earlier reached a record high of R6.80.