Cashing Out on Winnebago


Break out the GPS and pack a few weeks' worth of food -- Winnebago Industries (NYS: WGO) , maker of classic American recreational vehicles, is on the move. Private equity and hedge fund concern North Street Capital has offered $11 per share for the company. Although that price is nearly 30% higher than Winnebago stock's recent level, it was greeted skeptically by the company. And so the takeover journey begins.

Cheap at twice the price
Winnebago is a good takeover target. It's got a strong, well-known brand name, and it's a longtime operator in a niche business. It also happens to be extremely inexpensive, with a total market cap of barely over $250 million. That's incomparably cheap as a buyout target when matched against the closest competition, Thor Industries (NYS: THO) , with nearly six times that figure. Additionally, despite the surprise loss Winnebago made in its most recent quarter, it still packs a lot into its small share price and is completely debt-free.

Get it while the market sleeps
This isn't North Street's first stab at acquiring Winnebago. The financial operator revealed that it had made a $10.25 per share offer last month, which was rejected. The fresh offer was incrementally larger, but larger nonetheless. Judging solely from that, North Street seems like a serious buyer, and it appears to be determined to get its hands on those big RVs.

Its timing is good, and not only because Winnebago's shares cost little. The American holiday industry is recovering from post-recessionary saving habits, and more people are planning on opening their wallets and taking a vacation this summer. Many of those people will be doing so in RVs; according to a poll conducted by American Express, out of the estimated 140 million people in this country that'll be going away during the upcoming hot months, 69% are planning to travel by automobile.

That's probably one big reason why Winnebago's seen growth in both its most recent quarterly shipments and its sales backlog. Those road-trippers are going to need vehicles to get them around the country, and there are many RV aficionados out there to feed the market.

Investors, meanwhile, seemed underwhelmed by North Street's most recent buyout attempt -- the stock traded up only 2% on the day the offer was made, closing at $8.66, well short of that $11 offer. I don't expect this to be the final bid, nor for Winnebago to keep turning down its suitor. The company has value, and doubtless North Street is well aware of it. Winnebago's stock is at the beginning of a most interesting road trip, and it looks like that jaunt will be a profitable one for shareholders.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorEric Volkmanowns no stocks mentioned in the story above.The Motley Fool owns shares of Winnebago Industries. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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