PICO Rising

May.30.08 | About: PICO Holdings (PICO)

Since hitting a 3 year low in the sub $29.00 range back in March, shares of PICO Holdings (NASDAQ:PICO), which we've called the "Poor Man's Berskshire Hathaway", are up 45% on normal volume with little news.

The company held a call with investors on May 19th - a first for PICO -  and perhaps this is another step to take this previously under-followed company mainstream. Certainly, there's more analyst coverage than ever before, and Fidelity taking a stake a couple years back also may have advanced the ball in this regard.

Here are some of the first quarter highlights:


  • The Fish Springs Ranch pipleline project is nearing completion. While bad weather delayed completion of the surge tank, the 28.6 mile pipeline passed pressure tests. All other testing should be completed in June. This pipeline will deliver 8000 acre feet of water annually to the northern valleys of Reno, Nevada.
  • Company is building water right holdings in western Nevada (Carson City/Lyon County), and have acquired/have option to acquire 4366 acre feet.
  • Launched new business in the real estate segment, Union Community Partners, LLC which will acquire building lots in California, where long-term prospects are favorable. Company acquired 40 finished lots, 73 partially entitled lots, and unentitled land (possibly 960 lots), and and near Fresno.
  • Sold long-term holding Jungfraubahn Holding AG (Swiss publicly traded company) for $75.3 million, pre-tax gain of $46.1 million (will be booked q2). Estimate compound annual return of 20% during 12 year holding period
  • Still owns 456,000 acres of Nevada land (712.5 square miles)
  • $85 million in cash, $29 million debt as of 3/31/08
  • Company reported net loss of $1.6 million for the quarter

We continue to hold PICO shares, and believe this is still an excellent water play, with a variety of additional assets thrown in at a discount, and perhaps for free.

The company has vastly improved its website and quality of information provided, including presentations and the recorded shareholder calls. Its well worth a look if you want to learn more about this seemingly confusing array of assets.

 Disclosure: The author has a position in PICO Holdings.