This Is Why Buffett Loves Wells Fargo

Yesterday, Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) announced that it's buying a portfolio of energy loans and loan commitments from the French bank BNP Paribas. The deal will give Wells $3.9 billion in loans outstanding and $9.5 billion in loan commitments.

This may not sound like big news. After all, Wells had total assets of more than $1.3 trillion at the end of last year, so another $10 billion or so of loan commitments isn't huge. But the deal highlights why Wells Fargo is such an attractive bank and why a great investors like Warren Buffett would give it an enthusiastic thumbs-up even during the darker days of the financial crisis -- not to mention sink nearly $12 billion of Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) investment portfolio into the stock.

The reason this is notable is simple. In a deal like this, both sides will want to claim that it was good deal for them, but there's inevitably somebody who's getting the better end of the deal. Consider this clip from BNP Paribas' press release from the deal and see if you can figure out who made out here:

The sale forms part of BNP Paribas' global plan to deleverage its balance sheet and reduce its US dollar funding requirements. The transaction will further strengthen BNP Paribas' financial profile and improve its Common Equity Tier 1 ratio by an estimated five basis points.

At times like this, it's great to be well-capitalized and in a position to buy things when the world is littered with motivated sellers. Wells and BNP didn't disclose the terms of the deal, so we can't say for sure that Wells made out like a bandit here, but BNP sure sounds like a motivated seller.

And this isn't a one-off fluke. As Reuters noted in its coverage of the deal:

Since the middle of last year, Wells Fargo, the fourth largest U.S. bank by assets, has bought commercial real estate loans from Irish banks and acquired Bank of Ireland's Burdale Financial Holdings Ltd unit, an asset-based lender. CEO John Stumpf has said the bank is actively exploring possible acquisitions as European banks look to shed loans and businesses.

With Bank of America's (NYSE: BAC  ) stock trading at less than a third of stated book value and Citigroup's (NYSE: C  ) fetching well below half of its book value, paying 1.3 times book for Wells' stock may seem pricey. But when you consider the far higher quality of Wells -- remember, it reported a loss in only one quarter during the financial crisis -- and the advantageous position it currently finds itself in, that price tag may well be a bargain.

I'm thinking about adding Wells Fargo to my personal portfolio, but in the meantime, I'm giving it a thumbs-up in my Motley Fool CAPS portfolio and adding it to my watchlist. You can put Wells Fargo on your watchlist (or you can create a free watchlist).

Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of Bank of America and Berkshire Hathaway but has no financial interest in any of the other companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter, @KoppTheFool, or on Facebook. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye.


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