Calloway’s Nursery: Undervalued with Aligned Ownership

Calloway’s Nursery is undervalued on an earnings basis, owns valuable property in addition to that, and is run by a very successful investor. Calloway’s runs 19 nurseries and garden centers mostly in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area (with one in Houston). These nurseries are more specialized, have more variety, and are more expensive than the garden centers at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

I’ve followed Calloway’s (CLWY, $4.00) for years, but what pushed me to take a closer look last year was Peter Kamin taking control. Kamin co-founded ValueAct in 2000 with Jeffrey Ubben. ValueAct was immensely successfully while Kamin was there, but he stepped away and started 3K LP in 2012. 3K has no outside investors and they focus on micro-cap companies, both public and private. Kamin seems to be following a similar script at Calloway’s that he’s done at other public companies. That script includes: gradually build a position over several years, eventually take control, repurchase shares, pay down debt, and decrease public company expenses (by down-listing or de-listing). In the case of Abatix Corp (formerly ABIX), Kamin went through the aforementioned steps and eventually took them private at a 39% premium to the market price. Knowing Kamin has taken a controlled company private at a reasonably fair price gives me comfort in him being a majority shareholder at Calloway’s.

At Calloway’s, the game plan looks similar to the above.  3K started buying shares in 2012 and Kamin got a board seat in 2013 after a proxy fight. From 2013 to 2015 Calloway’s paid back roughly half their debt. In February 2016, 3K bought out two major shareholders (including the founder/former CEO). In the year since Kamin took over, operating margin increased from 6.5% in 2015 to 9.6% in 2016. Calloway’s also decreased shares outstanding by almost 25% in 2016. Finally, public company expenses have been decreased as they are now listed on the Pink Limited OTC marketplace and their quarterly releases consists of the three financial statements and nothing else.
Continue reading