As the world's third-richest person and most celebrated investor, Warren Buffett attracts a lot of attention. Thousands try to glean what they can from his thinking processes and track his investments.
We can't know for sure whether Buffett is about to buy Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) , but we can discover whether it's the sort of stock that might interest him. Answering that question could also reveal whether it's a stock that should interest us. In this series, we do just that.
Writing in a recent 10-K, Buffett lays out the qualities he looks for in an investment. In addition to adequate size, proven management, and a reasonable valuation, he demands:
- Consistent earnings power.
- Good returns on equity with limited or no debt.
- Management in place.
- Simple, non-techno-mumbo-jumbo businesses.
Does Chevron meet Buffett's standards?
1. Earnings power
Buffett is famous for betting on a sure thing. For that reason, he likes to see companies with demonstrated earnings stability.
Let's examine Chevron's earnings and free cash flow history:
Source: S&P Capital IQ.
Chevron's earnings have fluctuated quite a bit with the state of the global economy and energy prices, but they've managed to remain reasonably consistent.
2. Return on equity and debt
Return on equity is a great metric for measuring both management's effectiveness and the strength of a company's competitive advantage or disadvantage -- a classic Buffett consideration. When considering return on equity, it's important to make sure a company doesn't have an enormous debt burden, because that will skew your calculations and make the company look much more efficient than it is.
Chevron generates high returns on equity -- 24% last year, 22% on average over the past five years -- while employing a modest debt-to-equity ratio of 8%.
CEO John Watson has been CEO since 2010, though for several years prior he'd served in other positions at the company, including chief financial officer.
Though E&P has seen its share of technological innovations recently, integrated oil and gas production isn't especially susceptible to technological disruption.
The Foolish conclusion
So is Chevron a Buffett stock? It could very well be. The company exhibits several of the quintessential characteristics of a Buffett investment: more-or-less consistent earnings, a straightforward business, and tenured management, though it's possible Buffett would want to see how things go under its new CEO. If you're looking for some other promising energy stocks, check out "3 Stocks for $100 Oil." I invite you to download this special report for a limited time -- it's free.