NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- We're finally seeing some new signs of life at PICO Holdings (PICO), a small conglomerate that I have, perhaps unfairly, referred to as the "poor man's Berkshire Hathaway" over the years.The comparison to Warren Buffet's great empire is unfair and even ridiculous for many reasons, not the least of which has been PICO's poor stock price performance in recent years.
PICO announced Friday that its residential land development and homebuilding subsidiary, UCP plans an IPO to raise up to $125 million. This sent PICO shares up more than 7% on nine times normal average volume, a huge day for the stock. UCP, which PICO formed in 2007, owns or controls 4,916 residential lots in California (Central Valley and Monterey region) and Washington (Central Puget Sound). PICO data by YCharts
Unfortunately, book value per share has been falling the past three years, from $27.84 at year end 2009 to the current $20.80. Relative to the current stock price, that still puts the price to book ratio at just 1.12. But if the company's measure of success is in decline, already confused investors are unlikely to want to own it. However, PICO has been making some changes these past few years. It's been selling off some businesses and entering new ones, including one that might ultimately deliver a source of consistent revenue and earnings. PICO Price / Book Value data by YCharts