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Perking Up Pico


BusinessWeek Investor -- Inside Wall Street

Perking Up Pico

If you haven't heard of PICO Holdings (PICO), you're not alone. It gets hardly any coverage on Wall Street. But PICO is seen by some as a value play: It has water and land assets, insurance businesses, and a Net venture to boot. The stock is trading way below the value of its parts--and doesn't reflect the worth of its Internet link, argues Amit Wadhwaney of New York's J. Whitman.

PICO's assets include Nevada Land & Resource, valued by Wadhwaney at $71 million, or $6.60 a share; Vidler Water in the Southwest, worth $8 a share; two property and casualty insurers worth $6.20; and other assets he values at $6.25.

PICO's Web connection comes from its 44% stake in HyperFeed Technologies, a provider of financial data and news to professionals and consumers worldwide. HyperFeed is the owner of PCQuote.com, which is scheduled to go public in weeks, at 11 to 13 a share.

Right now, HyperFeed represents the lowest value in PICO's diversified holdings, he says. But it also has the largest potential for growth. He figures that if PCQuote.com trades at 12 a share, it would imply a valuation of $188 million. HyperFeed will retain half of PCQuote.com's 15 million shares outstanding. To PICO, that would mean an aftertax value of $31 million, or $3.20 a share, estimates Wadhwaney. But that's a very lowball figure, he maintains.

He says PCQuote.com could rapidly shoot up, just like many other Internet IPOs. He calculates that every $1 change in the per-share price of PCQuote.com's will mean a 25 cents-a-share change for PICO. PICO earned 18 cents in the quarter ended June 30, on sales of $14.5 million. Says Wadhwaney: "Any surprises will be on the upside." PICO currently trades at $20 a share. All in all, says the analyst, PICO is worth at least $30.By Gene G. MarcialReturn to top

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