CARPINTERIA, CALIF. — CKE Restaurants, Inc., the owner of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurant chains, has entered into a definitive merger agreement with Apollo Global Management, an asset management firm. Under the terms of the agreement, CKE stockholders will receive $12.55 in cash for each share of CKE common stock they hold, representing a 41% premium to the company’s closing share price on Feb. 25.

CKE’s board of directors unanimously approved the merger agreement and is recommending that CKE shareholders adopt the agreement. The transaction is valued at approximately $1 billion, including the refinancing of the company’s outstanding debt. Completion of the transaction is expected to occur by the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2011.

In February, private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners agreed to acquire CKE Restaurants for approximately $928 million, including the assumption of about $309 million in debt. As part of the transaction, CKE shareholders would have received $11.05 in cash for each share of CKE common stock they own. CKE Restaurants said the Apollo bid represented a 14% premium over the bid provided by Thomas H. Lee Partners.