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Crawford United: Rolling Up Big Profits


  • Upper management has pulled off tremendous feats at the holding company over the last 3 years.
  • The flexibility of the business is set up to compound shareholder capital, via acquisitions, at exceedingly high rates of return.
  • Positive thesis creep is present due to the change from a sleepy industrial to a compounding machine targeting a large addressable market.

Crawford is a well-positioned industrial roll-up with astute management at the helm. The business has used prudent leverage to increase the quality of its underlying business value since 2017 and continues to do so during current economic weakness. While levered, the durable nature of Crawford's subsidiaries should demand a higher multiple on its shares. In the meantime, investors get to hold onto a growing stream of cash flows at depressed prices.


Crawford United (OTCPK:CRAWA) previously Hickok, founded in 1910, began its days focusing on indicators used in both automobiles and aircraft cockpits. The nature of this business relied heavily on a few large OEM customers to initiate new projects. Because of this and its over-reliance on the ebbs and flows of the auto industry, Crawford United began a series of profitable acquisitions geared towards building a quality, yet diverse asset base. On January 8th, 2016 Hickok signed a merger agreement with First Francis Company, where the company would be taken over by the Crawford family entity.

Edward Francis Crawford is a well-respected and highly savvy entrepreneur. He previously served as chairman and CEO of Park-Ohio Holdings (PKOH).

An industrial supply chain logistics and diversified manufacturing business." In 1992, Crawford sold his company Kay Home Products to Park-Ohio Industries. As a result of the transaction, he became not only a major shareholder but also chairman and CEO of Park-Ohio Industries. At the time, Park-Ohio was doing about $60 million in sales. Over time, the company's sales have risen to $1.3 billion. Crawford became president of Park-Ohio in 2018 when his son succeeded him as chairman and CEO. Crawford resigned from Park-Ohio on June 17, 2019.

This induced merger by the Crawford father-son duo created a sea change in the underlying business, developing a growth engine with managerial expertise in acquiring productive

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Analyst’s Disclosure: I am/we are long CRAWA. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Comments (12)

does this company have a future with the space industry? they seem to provide some very high quality highly in demand products yet i can't find any real costumers.
linska profile picture
@pinchasg9 If you look at the numbers, their division in Arizona got hit pretty bad last year. Does anyone know how this new forge purchase will help? They did have a press release regarding data genomix, that might be a hidden gem.
bazooooka profile picture
Might end up closer to $25 in 2021/22.
Fourth Green Investments profile picture
That's probably a fair assessment. It's currently trading at about 11x FY20. As demand comes back online between now and 22' I'm still confident the $2.5 in economic earnings will be achievable. So, at $19.90 that's about 8x FY21 earnings. Not too bad. Catalysts will be additional acquisitions/deleveraging balance sheet
Greystone Capital profile picture
Thanks for your writeup.

Does it bother/concern you that the MPI acquisition was for a much higher multiple than previous deals? Especially since this one was not of the related party type? I understand MPI was not in distress, but what is the likelihood that prior acquisitions were done at cheap multiples to line owner pockets, and then advertised as low multiple deals?

Also, what are your thoughts on the balance sheet, which isn't all that great/flexible? I'm less concerned with covenants and more concerned with liquidity during a pro-longed downturn. I don't put much weight into models/forecasts, but yours only goes out to 2020. Have you thought about how your potential 50% revenue decline scenario would impact their cost structure (I'm assuming mostly fixed/corporate)? Nobody knows should we assume that COVID-19 downturn only lasts a few more months? Why would it not be reasonable to think that CRAWA business and end customers will be affected through 2021 before returning to 'normal'? Would be interested in your thoughts, any tidbits from your conversations with mgmt, insiders etc.

Thank you.
Fourth Green Investments profile picture
Thanks for the great question. Yes, absolutely. As I listed above, I think that's one of the largest risks present to the thesis. While the CAD deal was also done through an unrelated party, based on the distressed acquisition price, I believe Crawford is unlikely to see those types of multiples again for the quality.


At this point in time, I'm not thrilled with the MPI acquisition. The multiple is tough to wrap my head around, especially considering the size and quality of the transaction. Hindsight is 20/20, but integrating a rather commoditized product that has cyclical end-users into the pipeline, in this environment, is worrisome. I do believe that the Crawford family has the technical abilities and ethics to make prudent acquisitions but they could very well have been fluffing the numbers to their benefit. It's hard for me to make a judgment call on at this time, but I will keep everyone aware of my findings moving forward!
Greystone Capital profile picture
Thank you, I appreciate it.
hardly any volume..like 200 shares a day? bid and ask spread can eat one up
Fourth Green Investments profile picture
Yes, because of such low volume when it trades, it trades! Considering the illiquid nature, anyone interested would have to be in for the long haul.
The air handling division which does work also for hospitals would seem to be a big beneficiary of the new focus on airborne pathogens. Eventually a much higher multiple from here imo.
Fourth Green Investments profile picture
Could very well be the case. I would think that large increases of patients+staff will be rather taxing on most equipment, in particular these units. I'm still figuring out whether the virus will be a net positive for them as downtime for some businesses could be a perfect time to upgrade PPE. However, no capital = no capital spending.
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