operation management

| December 3, 2015

Terence Breezeway, the CEO of Prairie Home Stores, wondered what retirement would be like. It was almost 20 years to the day since his uncle Jacob Breezeway, Prairie Home’s founder, had asked him to take responsibility for managing the company. Now it was time to spend more time riding and fishing on the old Lazy Beta Ranch.

Under Mr. Breezeway’s leadership Prairie Home had grown slowly but steadily and was solidly profitable. (Table 7�7 shows earnings, dividends, and book asset values for the last 5 years.) Most of the company’s supermarkets had been modernized and its brand name was well known.

Mr. Breezeway was proud of this record, although he wished that Prairie Home could have grown more rapidly. He had passed up several opportunities to build new stores in adjacent coun- ties. Prairie Home was still just a family company. Its common stock was distributed among 15 grandchildren and nephews of Jacob Breezeway, most of whom had come to depend on gener- ous regular dividends. The commitment to high dividend payout17 had reduced the earnings available for reinvestment and thereby constrained growth.

Mr. Breezeway believed the time had come to take Prairie Home public. Once its shares were traded in the public market, the Breezeway descendants who needed (or just wanted) more cash to spend could sell off part of their holdings. Others with more inter- est in the business could hold on to their shares and be rewarded by higher future earnings and stock prices.

But if Prairie Home did go public, what should its shares sell for? Mr. Breezeway worried that shares would be sold, either by Breezeway family members or by the company itself, at too low a price. One relative was about to accept a private offer for $200, the current book value per share, but Mr. Breezeway had intervened and convinced the would-be seller to wait.

Prairie Home’s value depended not just on its current book value or earnings but on its future prospects, which were good. One financial projection (shown in the top panel of Table 7�8) called for growth in earnings of over 100% by 2019. Unfortunately, this plan would require reinvestment of all of Prairie Home’s earnings from 2013 to 2016. After that the company could resume its nor- mal dividend payout and growth rate. Mr. Breezeway believed this plan was feasible.

He was determined to step aside for the next generation of top management. But before retiring, he had to decide whether to rec- ommend that Prairie Home Stores �go public��and before that decision he had to know what the company was worth.

The next morning he rode thoughtfully to work. He left his horse at the south corral and ambled down the dusty street to Mike Gordon’s Saloon, where Francine Firewater, the company’s CFO, was hav- ing her usual steak-and-beans breakfast. He asked Ms. Firewater to prepare a formal report to Prairie Home stockholders, valuing the company on the assumption that its shares were publicly traded.

Ms. Firewater asked two questions immediately. First, what should she assume about investment and growth? Mr. Breezeway suggested two valuations, one assuming more rapid expansion (as in the top panel of Table 7�8) and another just projecting past growth (as in the bottom panel of Table 7�8).

Second, what rate of return should she use? Mr. Breezeway said that 15%, Prairie Home’s usual return on book equity, sounded right to him, but he referred her to an article in the Journal of Finance indicating that investors in rural supermarket chains, with risks similar to Prairie Home Stores, expected to earn about 11% on average.
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Book value, start of year $62.7 $66.1 $69.0 $73.9 $76.5
Earrnings 9.7 9.5 11.8 11.0 11.2
Dividends 6.3 6.6 6.9 7.4 7.7
Retained earnings 3.4 2.9 4.9 2.6 3.5
Book Value, end of year 66.1 69.0 73.9 76.5 80.0

Notes:

1. Prairie Home Stores has 400,000 common shares

2. The company’s policy is to pay cash dicidends to 10% of start-of-year book value
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Rapid-Growth Scenario
Book Vlaue, start of year 80.0 92.0 105.8 121.7 139.9 146.9
Earnings 12 13.8 15.9 18.3 21 22
Dividends 0 0 0 0 14 14.7
Retained Earrnings 12 13.8 15.9 18.3 7 7.4
Book Value, end of year 92.0 105.8 121.7 139.9 146.9 154.3
Constant-Groth Scenerio
Book Vlaue, start of year 80.0 84.0 88.2 92.6 97.2 102.1
Earnings 12 12.6 13.2 13.9 14.6 15.3
Dividends 8 8.4 8.8 9.3 9.7 10.2
Retained Earrnings 4 4.2 4.4 4.6 4.9 5.1
Book Value, end of year 84 88.2 92.6 97.2 102.1 107.2

Notes:

1. Both panels assume earnings equal to 15% of start of the year book value. This profitability rate in constant.

2. The top panel assumes all earrnings are reinvested from 2013 to 2016. In 2017 and later years, two-thirds of earnings are paid out as dividends and one0third reinvested

3. The bottom panel assumes two-thirds of earnings are paid out as dividends in all years.

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