La Jolla-based PICO Holdings Inc. has hired a financial advisor and legal counsel to explore “strategic alternatives to further enhance shareholder value,” an announcement which typically signifies interest in a merger, sale or other significant transaction.
The company said Oct. 2 it had retained JMP Securities LLC and Cooley LLP for financial and legal advice, respectively.
PICO’s main asset is its ownership in Vidler Water Co., which has water rights in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. The company’s other noncash asset is a 9 percent stake in U.S. homebuilder Century Communities Inc., to which PICO recently sold its real estate operations.
“We believe the recent initiatives by our board and management team have generated significant value and transparency. Furthermore, we believe now is the appropriate time to evaluate strategic alternatives as we seek to maximize value to shareholders,” company CEO Max Webb said in an Oct. 2 statement. “For more than a year, the company has made significant progress streamlining its focus of operations and cost structure by reducing overhead, and selling its agribusiness, real estate, and oil and gas operations.”
As of Sept. 29 the company also had $23 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand and about $70 million in Treasury bills that were slated to mature in 30 days.
Although the company said no timetable was set for exploring potential transactions, the company has rejiggered its bonus program for Webb and executive John Perri, broadening it to cover any sale, merger or business combination of the company instead of just asset dispositions by PICO, and slating the bonus program to expire at the end of 2018 if no transaction is completed.
In conjunction with the announcement PICO said that one of its board members, Andrew Cates, who joined the company’s board of directors 18 months ago, had resigned Sept. 28 “ to allow him to focus more fully on his business.” Cates is CEO of RVC Outdoor Destinations, which develops, owns and operates vacation properties.
PICO also said Eric Speron, a portfolio manager for First Foundation Advisors, one of PICO’s largest institutional investors, had been appointed chairman of the board’s compensation committee Sept. 29. Speron joined the board in January of 2016.