July 23, 2018 - 9:33am EST by
2018 2019
Price: 34.12 EPS 8.13 0
Shares Out. (in M): 10 P/E 4.3 0
Market Cap (in $M): 329 P/FCF 0 0
Net Debt (in $M): 580 EBIT 0 0
TEV ($): 918 TEV/EBIT 0 0

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BlueLinx Holdings, Inc. (“BXC” or the “Company”) is a two-step home building products distributor with a
footprint concentrated in the eastern and central US. In January zzz007 posted a solid write-up on the
Company. Subsequent to that BXC has undertaken a highly attractive acquisition, currently trades at just
4.3x pro forma LTM EPS with a +20% FCF yield and thus warrants revisiting. This valuation disconnect
primarily stems from investor confusion, limited IR, lack of sell-side coverage and chart anchoring/
investors thinking they have “missed it.” Erratic trading around the recent Russell 2000 reshuffle and
headline housing concerns have likely also contributed to recent price weakness. We believe the risk-
reward profile now is arguably as appealing as it has ever been despite the stock’s appreciation since
October 2017. There are a number of near-term catalysts that should lead to +100% upside with
downside protection derived from the Company’s large asset base and strong free cash flow profile. In
June there were material insider purchases at the level close to where the stock is presently trading.
Near and medium-term catalysts to value realization include: 1) reporting of combined Q2 financials and
an update on the integration process in August; 2) continued monetization of its 33 owned warehouses
illuminating the value of its assets and going toward debt paydown (targeted leverage ratio reduction
from 4x to 2.5x over the next year); 3) increased institutional awareness from expanded corporate
communication and sell-side initiations by Wells Fargo, BTIG and likely others; and 4) ongoing
operational improvements converting to financial performance.
BlueLinx’s acquisition of Cedar Creek changed the entire setup and is worth discussing up front. BXC
paid $413M in cash equating to 6.9x and 3.8x 2017 pre-synergy and post-synergy EBITDA, respectively.
The transaction was announced March 12 and closed on April 13. Due to its overlapping footprint, BXC
was uniquely well positioned to bid on this business, precluding some peers from participating. This
transaction is highly accretive, doubles the size of the business and increases its scale which will improve
margins and delevers the balance sheet on a pro forma basis.
With the transaction, management announced it expects that at least $50M in annual cost savings will
be realized within 18 months. These saving represent a 50% increase in EBITDA and will be derived from
fleet consolidation, procurement and G&A reduction. We were initially skeptical of the magnitude of
this guidance, however, subsequent research led us to conclude that these levels will likely prove to be
conservative. First, $50M represents 1.5% of combined revenue. This is in-line with those of the BLDR-
ProBuild and BEC-Allied deals yet BXC’s geographic overlap is significantly greater than that of those
entities (see map). Conversations with industry participants further indicated that BXC goals were
attainable. Second, the former CEO of Cedar Creek’s new employment agreement as COO of the
combined business includes an incentive performance bonus tied to achieving a minimum of $50M in
annual integration synergies. Presumably he would not have agreed to this baseline if he did not believe
it attainable. Third, these cost savings estimates assume 100% retention of the combined sales teams.
They have publicly stated this to avoid disruption in the ranks but it is pretty clear there is going to be a
reduction here as well. Fourth, the guidance comes from a well-informed position as going into the
transaction these companies knew each other well, had been in discussions for a while and is supported
by synergy analyses undertaken by McKinsey. These estimates also do not include revenue synergies nor
any continued margin improvement from the overhaul completed last year (more below). The
transaction was de-risked somewhat when Cedar Creek reported a clean audit from PwC in late June.
BlueLinx operates 39 distributions centers (“DCs”) totaling 9.4M square feet of warehouse space in the
eastern and central US. It distributes over 10,000 SKUs of structural (45% of revenue, 33% of GP) and
specialty products (55% of revenue, 66% of GP). Indicative structural products are rebar, plywood,
lumber and specialty products include molding, siding, roofing and paneling. Sales volumes are driven by
residential housing starts and to a lesser extent R&R. BXC sells its products to commercial builders,
manufactured housing companies and home improvement retailers. None of its customers represent
greater than 5% of revenue. This is a localized industry where proximity to the end-user is critical. It is a
very fragmented space with competitors being captive distribution arms of lumber companies and
building products manufacturers (such as Boise Cascade and Weyerhaeuser) and a host of small local
mom-and-pop operators. The closest publicly-traded peer is Huttig Building Products (HBP). Private
competitor LBM has filed an S-1 and is intending to pursue an IPO later this year.
BlueLinx was formerly the internal lumber distribution arm of Georgia Pacific. In 2004, Cerberus Capital
acquired these assets and was subsequently taken public later that year (with Cerberus selling 47% of its
stake to the public). The Company struggled during the downturn due to the obvious market conditions
and some management missteps/ high leadership turnover. Cerberus did provide financing through
PIPEs in 2011 and 2013 following an ill-fated speculative bet on lumber prices by the former CEO, but
other than that BXC was, by all accounts, an after-thought to the major shareholder. Until its existing
management team came onboard three years ago, BXC was essentially run as a volume-focused
business with limited attention to returns and margins.
Last October Cerberus sold its shares, ending its involvement in the business. As it was an insignificant
last position in its 2004 vintage fund, the sale price was indiscriminately low at $7 per share. The
removal of that overhang opened up the float, improved the stock’s liquidity, expanded the potential
shareholder base/ index inclusion and enabled the Company to use its stock as a currency for
acquisitions and management incentives.
The Company’s CEO previously ran another building products business (Euromax Holdings) from 2008
through 2013--no doubt an inauspicious time to take over a housing products company. He successfully
completed that company’s restructuring (over-levered by sponsor) and a refinancing while also
stabilizing performance and driving growth. BXC’s CFO was formerly head of finance for Home Depot in
North America. The existing management team took over in 2014 and has undertaken steps to
significantly improve the business operationally and financially. These include divesting less profitable
locations, implementing of pricing based on return, eliminating low margin/ low return SKUs,
decentralizating sales to better connect with its local customers, delevering the balance sheet and
optimizing of working capital. Below lays out the financial performance and improvements management
has made since taking over.
Management has publicly stated they thought they were in the third inning of improvements that they
believe they can realize. This position is substantiated by the fact that peer Huttig is generating 20%
more revenue per square foot and over 20% gross margins versus BlueLinx at 12.6%. Per management,
every 1% increase in pre-Cedar Creek BXC gross margin equates to $16-18M in incremental EBITDA, so
clearly the upside potential is significant. The below table contrasts the margin structure of BXC and
Cedar Creek (CC) with that of other distributors. If the combined BXC were able to attain 6% EBITDA
margins it would generate $200M in EBITDA on its existing revenue base.
It should be noted that Cedar Creek’s CEO, Alex Averitt, is going to be assuming the role of COO,
bolstering the ranks of the combined company. By all accounts Averitt is a highly effective operator that
drove growth and efficiency at Cedar Creek. His cost cutting abilities should be put to good use in the
integration process and ongoing improvement of BXC. As noted, his employment agreement from June
includes an incentive performance bonus tied to achieving at least $50M in annual integration synergies.
BlueLinx presently owns 33 DCs or 5.3M square feet of warehouse space from Minnesota south to Texas
and eastward. In 2016 the Company began selling assets in the form of sale-leaseback transactions with
the proceeds being used to meet required mortgage amortization payments and reduce its debt. Cedar
Creek leases all its facilities presenting the potential for BXC to outright divest of its locations. These are
highly desirable assets so this process should be orderly. As it continues, the value of these holdings will
be illuminated. Management stated that they were targeting the first week of July to decide which
locations will be retained so clarity on this should be forthcoming.
Growth in ecommerce has led to increased demand and higher multiples for the category of industrial
real estate with valuations ranging from sub-5% capitalization rates for major market class A industrial
to 7.6% for secondary class B with replacement costs of $30-80 per square foot. Over the last two years
the Company has sold 19 sites, realizing $131M in proceeds or 4x net book value. Based on trading
comps, BXC’s 10 largest remaining facilities are worth $172M. If the rest of the DCs are included at a
depressed $20 per square foot, the implied value is $200M. The four locations BXC SLB’ed in January
sold for an implied $47 per square foot. It should be noted that the Company has $89M in NOLs it will
use to shield capital gains taxes on a good portion of these future real estate sales. Those NOLs begin to
expire over the next three years.
Lack of awareness of the merits of the Cedar Creek acquisition, the fact that BXC does not presently
screen well (unadjusted numbers show a high multiple and leverage ratio) and investor aversion to the
Company’s low margins lead to the overlooking of its asset base. Meanwhile, the aforementioned
improvements have created a sightline to margin expansion and higher returns. The market has given
them little credit for these endeavors but shareholders should be rewarded as these factors manifest
themselves further in the financials. While the Company does generate low margins, it has an attractive
FCF profile primarily due to low maintenance capex (with ample existing capacity available).
BXC is currently trading at 6.0x pro forma LTM EBITDA. Its closest publicly-traded peer HBP trades at over
12x adjusted EBITDA while almost all building products companies are trading above 10x EBITDA. 8-10x
EBITDA equates to $65-100 per BXC share or 75-160% upside from current. Regardless of peer
valuations, BXC’s 4.3x pro forma LTM cash EPS multiple (over a 20% FCF yield to the equity) is way too
low. These current multiples also do not factor in any margin improvement, revenue growth or ascribe
any value to its real estate assets. Investors derive downside protection from BXC’s relatively large asset
- Housing and Lumber Exposure: BXC’s revenue is approximately 90% correlated with US single family
housing starts so a downturn in the building industry would impact the business. However, in the event
of such a decline the Company can rapidly reduce inventory (inventory is liquid and typically turned
every month) and increase FCF. The current management team’s level of experience should serve as a
mitigant. During the financial crisis while at the helm of Euramax, CEO Lewis actually managed to
expand margins despite the challenging environment. At BXC’s current depressed multiple investors are
not paying for any upside in starts. The Company seeks to minimize its exposure to commodity lumber
and turn inventory as fast as possible. DSOs have improved to 30 days so BXC does have some exposure
to price fluctuations but it is relatively modest. A single-name building products or housing ETF short
could be used to offset housing exposure.
- Merger Integration: All indications so far suggest the integration is on-track as anticipated. Earlier this
month Cedar Creek’s audit came back clean. Even if they only realize a fraction of the cost synergies, the
stock is cheap.
- Leverage: BXC will have four turns of pro forma leverage. This is down from a leverage ratio of 8x at the
end of 2017. While optically still high, it will get paid down in fairly short order through FCF and asset
sales. The structure of the debt is also worth noting as the ABL is secured by liquid inventory thus is
somewhat more akin to a payable than for instance term debt.


I do not hold a position with the issuer such as employment, directorship, or consultancy.
I and/or others I advise hold a material investment in the issuer's securities.


1) Reporting of combined Q2 financials and an update on the integration process in August

2) Continued monetization of its 33 owned warehouses illuminating the value of its assets and going toward debt paydown (targeted leverage ratio reduction from 4x to 2.5x over the next year)

3) Increased institutional awareness from expanded corporate communication and sell-side initiations by Wells Fargo, BTIG and likely others

4) Ongoing operational improvements converting to financial performance

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