The sum of its parts is greater than the whole
I've had my eye on Lowes Corp. (L) for a while now, as one might be able to tell from my miserable -14 CAPS score on the stock. Not to be confused with the Home Depot-like home improvement retailer, Lowes Corp is large conglomerate that has operations in a number of sectors. I've always believed that the company is like a mini-Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B). While the Tisch family is certainly not Warren Buffett, Lowes trades at a substantial enough discount to Berkshireto make up for a lot of the difference.
Given the company's miserable performance lately, I am happy to report that I never pulled the trigger on it in real life. Its substantial investment in an troubled insurance company called CNA Financial (CNA) has always bothered me. However, Lowes' stock is so cheap now that it is becoming very interesting. Certainly interesting enough for me to give it the old thumbs up in CAPS if I wasn't already sitting on a negative score for it.
How cheap is Lowes? Check out the following sum-of-the-parts analysis that was published in this week's Barron's:
242 million shares in CNA Financial (CNA) is worth approximately $5.00 per Lowes share
$1,250 million in CNA preferred stock: $3.22/share
70 million shares of Diamond Offshore (DO): $9.97/share
130 million shares of Boardwalk Pipeline (BWP): $5.97/share
$500 million in the Boardwalk GP: $1.15/share
$700 million in Loews Hotels: $1.61/share
$1,750 million in Highmount Exploration: $4.02/share (natural gas producer)
$1,400 million in net cash: $2.87/share
TOTAL SUM-OF-PARTS: $33.81/share
Current stock price: $20.21/share
As you can see L is trading at a significant discount to the current value of its holdings, even if you hate CNA, which traditionally has been the worst of breed in terms of insurance companies, and mark Lowes' investment in it down to zero, L is still trading at over five dollars less than the current value of its parts. That's a heck of a deal.
Add to this the fact that the company actually pays a dividend, its yield of slightly over 1% isn't great...but it's something, and a compelling case can be made for the stock at this level. As I have mentioned numerous times in recent months, I personally am staying away from common stock right now and am putting any money that I invest in preferred stock or bonds that have decent yields. I am sticking with this philosophy with my real portfolio, but I am definitely staying long L in CAPS.