Communication Systems Inc ("CSI", Ticker: JCS) is a mini conglomerate that announced earlier this year they would be selling their operating businesses and real estate assets, returning the capital to shareholders and then merging the empty public shell with privately held Pineapple Energy, a recently formed company intending to pursue a rollup of residential solar businesses. By my estimates, the sale proceeds from the legacy businesses could roughly equal the current market cap (~$67MM or $6.75/share), with a $3.50/share special dividend coming shortly and 90% of the remaining via a contingent value right within 18 months, leaving pre-deal shareholders with a stub position in the new Pineapple Energy (ticker will switch to PEGY) as a speculative kicker.
This is a strange transaction, CSI is effectively liquidating and as part of the garage sale is getting paid in PEGY stock for the public listing "asset", it is almost a SPAC (the merger deck resembles a SPAC deck) but Pineapple is not getting any SPAC trust cash, only the PIPE they're raising alongside the closing of the deal. In SPAC-language, CSI is almost the SPAC sponsor and getting sponsor shares in PEGY for putting the deal together and getting it public. The current Chairman of CSI will become the Chairman of the Pineapple and the CFO is staying on board too, so the start-up Pineapple is buying some public company management infrastructure and a public currency to pursue M&A. But it is still a bit puzzling why either side is doing this particular deal with each other, other than both companies management teams and headquarters are based in Minneapolis, maybe they run in the same social circles.
Two events have happened since the initial merger announcement:
- CSI sold their largest operating business unit to Lantronix (LTRX) for $25MM in cash, plus an earnout of $7MM if the business unit's revenue roughly returns back to 2019 numbers in the 12 months after the close.
- Pineapple announced a PIPE financing that includes convertible preferred stock, warrants and a term loan to be used to fund operations (again, pre-merger cash is being returned to CSI shareholders) and close on two M&A transactions Pineapple intends to complete concurrently with the merger deal.
- Cash and investments of $21MM
- $25MM from the sale to LTRX, plus an earnout of $7MM
- CSI owns their corporate headquarters in Minnetoka, MN, it is on the market for $10MM and a manufacturing facility in rural MN that is leased out to the purchaser of a business they previously sold, that facility is on the market for $975k.
- Their remaining business segment (JDL Technologies and Ecessa) has yet to be sold, the Ecessa business was purchased in 2020 for $4MM, the combined segment did $8.8MM in revenue last year.
- Deal fails to close, but then it likely turns into more of a straight liquidation and your downside is somewhat protected.
- Cash or sale proceeds that should be distributed via the CVR gets used for the new business, doesn't appear to be the intention of the transaction, but funny business does happen with CVRs.
- My estimates are wildly off or missing something big, there shouldn't be material taxes as they do have an NOL, but there could be unforeseen expenses or the real estate assets might sell well below list price.
Disclosure: I own shares of JCS