In the Far West, real estate appraisals rendered by the federal government rarely have brought gleams of joy to the eyes of property owners, particularly corporate owners.
But for 110-year-old Pacific Lumber Co., which has its headquarters here, this has not been the case. For now, at least, Palco management has reason to be kindly disposed toward Washington.
This past May, after a long and controversial battle, Congress finally passed the Redwood National Parks Act, which removed 48,000 acres of magnificent redwood trees in northern California from commercial ownership by timber interests and turned them over to the public domain.
In so doing, the federal legislators established a price for the trees, thus kicking off a rare spurt in investor interest in Palco stock, an issue which normally trades little more than 6,000 shares a day.
By authorizing $359 million as the acquisition price for the 48,000 acres of redwood timberland in Humboldt and adjoining Del Norte counties, Congress in essence established an appraisal value for Palco redwoods as well. In short, it meant that Congress valued Palco's 161,000 acres of redwoods in Humboldt at $7,500 an acre, or $1.2 million for the entire package.
It did not take Wall Street long to do its arithemtic, and Palco stock has moved up to $49 from a 1978 low of $31. Adding impetus to the upward movement of Palco stock was the contention by some involved in the redwood transfer deal that the redwood land actually is worth $10,000 an acre rather than the $7,500 Congress approved.
In either case, the congressional action offers a partial answer to an investor question: How much is Palco worth? Actually, the market value of the company, based on 12.1 million shares selling at $45, is about $545 million, which is considered a good price, especially for a company that one analyst here calls "recession resilient."
As to the run-up in Palco's stock, Robert Hoover, the company's president and chief executive officer, said the congressional move was "certainly one factor." But he said there were others. For one thing, Palco reported during the last week of April that first-quater earnings set a record.
In addition, both Palco and Wall Street have known for some time that the Kimberly-Clark Co. has been offering to sell blocs of Palco stock which it bought about five years ago. Some market observers here are convienced Kimberly-Clark's purpose in adding Palco stock had been a preliminary step to a possible takeover effort.
In any event, almost all of these shares now have been taken off the market because Palco has bought them back.
Not only is a possible takeover effort ended, but Palco knows for sure what its 161,000 acres of redwoods, a few hundred miles north of here, are really worth.