Activist Investors Could Unlock Value of BBBY Stock

Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY) stock has long been a “value trap.” The company has traded at a low valuation for years. But the company faces tough challenges. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and other e-commerce giants threaten its business model. But more aggressive investors are finding value in this deeply-discounted retailer.

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Activist hedge funds (led by Legion Partners) have taken a position in BBBY stock. The activists had initial success shaking up the board, but investors soon lost interest in a BBBY turnaround.

Real catalysts are finally emerging as the company hired Goldman Sachs to help with asset sales. With BBBY stock selling at a fraction of its intrinsic value, interest from buyers may indicate short-term upside. Since making the announcement in late August, shares are up from $8.63 a share to $10.64 a share at the close Sept. 13. Does this mean its time to buy Bed Bath & Beyond stock? Let’s see if there’s additional upside on the table.

Unlocking Value With BBBY Stock

Back in March, a group of activists (Legion Partners, Marcellum Advisors, Ancora Advisors) took a position in BBBY stock. Their intent was to replace the current board with their hand-picked slate of directors. Shares soared from about $14 a share up to $19.57 a share. The activist group failed to completely takeover BBBY’s board, but managed to get the CEO ousted and get several new directors added to the board.

But the activist catalyst soon dissipated. Shares crashed, falling more than 50% from this 52-week high. But the activists may now have the chance to do their magic. The company hired Goldman Sachs to advise on offers for several BBBY subsidiaries.

BBBY has short interest of 53%. This means short-sellers have taken bearish positions equal to more than half of the company’s market cap. But any positive news at the company could lead to a share surge. This is due to short-sellers having to cover their positions.

Selling non-core business would boost BBBY stock. The company could use the proceeds to do a share buyback. They could also use the money to fuel a turnaround. The company issued a press release on Sept. 4 detailing their strategy. Bed Bath & Beyond plans on closing under-performing stores and reducing inventory by $1 billion over the next 18 months.

There seem to be interested buyers waiting in the wings. A former executive wants to buy BBBY’s Cost Plus unit for $250 million. The company’s Personalization Mall business has offers of $250-$300 million from (NASDAQ:FLWS) and Things Remembered. Oak Street Real Estate wants to buy up BBBY’s real estate.

But what is the underlying value of Bed Bath & Beyond stock? Can the company profit from a corporate yard sale? Or is the upside already priced in? Let’s take a look at the intrinsic value of BBBY stock.

Bed Bath & Beyond Stock Valuation

“Sum of the parts” is the best way to value BBBY stock. The company could easily sell its non-core retail chains. They could do a sale-leaseback of their company-owned real estate. Combined with inventory reductions, a material amount of capital could be extracted, all while maintaining the core Bed Bath & Beyond chain.

Legion Partners detailed this in their July investor letter. Along with the flagship Bed Bath & Beyond chain, BBBY owns buybuyBABY, Cost Plus World Markets, Christmas Tree Shops, and Harmon Face Values. The company also owns over 4.4 million square feet of real estate. Legion gives a conservative valuation of $1.2 billion for the non-core chains. Their estimate of the underlying real estate value is $600 million.

Bed Bath & Beyond has a market cap of $1.3 billion. The company has over $900 million in cash and short-term investments, and $3.78 billion in outstanding debt. Its enterprise value is $4.2 billion. Subtract the potential asset sales, and investors are essentially getting the flagship chain for free. Legion estimates the core business generates $500 million per year in EBITDA.

However, most stock screeners include BBBY’s $2.19 billion in short and long-term operating lease liabilities as debt. Legion Partner’s estimates exclude this amount. Keep this in mind when using their valuation metrics, however, Legion also estimates the company could double EBITDA to $1 billion a year. Assigning a 6.2x EBITDA multiple values the core business at $6.5 billion. Subtracting the lease liabilities would leave investors with approximately $4.3 billion valuation, more than three times the company’s current market value.

BBBY Stock Worth A Consideration

BBBY stock is not a slam-dunk value play. The company is undervalued, but the numbers are not as crystal clear as Legion Partners implies. The company faces tough competitive headwinds. Its planned turnaround may not pay off.

But with a high level of short interest, a spate of good news could push shares higher. It could take years for Bed Bath & Beyond stock to completely turnaround. At the current valuation levels, however, there is sufficient margin of safety for aggressive investors to take a position.

As of this writing, Thomas Niel did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities

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