Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. shares jumped the most in almost three years on a report the retail chain is holding early-stage talks with buyout firms about a plan to go private.

The stock surged 12 percent to $55.01 at the close in New York for the biggest gain since January 2012. Reuters reported today that the sporting-goods retailer is holding early-stage conversations with a “handful” of buyout firms. There is no formal sales process under way, the news service said, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

Dick’s was cited as one of Evercore ISI’s top retail buyout targets because of the company’s low debt levels, reasonable valuation and growth prospects. Chief Executive Officer Edward Stack also has been working to appeal to more female customers and capitalize on the trend of people wearing athletic clothing as streetwear.

Shares of the Coraopolis, Pennsylvania-based company fell 15 percent last year, hurt by sluggish sales of golf and hunting gear. Dick’s didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A representative for the company declined to comment.

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