Stocks Are Flat, but Buffett Finds Value

After gyrating around a bit, stocks finished the day essentially unchanged, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) and the broader S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) up 0.03% and 0.02%. Instead of commenting on the day's squiggles, I thought I'd highlight some news that puts investors' focus back where it should be: On investing with an eye for value over the long-term.

The long view: Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B  ) has paid 600 million euros ($780 milllion) to reinsure a portfolio of life insurance policies from CaixaBank, Spain's largest lender. In fact, the agreement effectively amounts to a Berkshire purchase of the portfolio of policies, as the life and mortality risks of the policies are transferred to Berkshire, which will benefit from any future gains in the value of the portfolio. Note that the portfolio generated premium revenue of 231 million euros.

The transaction looks like classic Warren Buffett/Ajit Jain opportunism: providing liquidity to a motivated seller at a mouthwatering price (Ajit Jain is Buffett's top reinsurance executive and a top contender to succeed Buffett as CEO of Berkshire). European banks -- and Spanish banks, in particular -- are under pressure to reduce their balance sheets to meet new, stricter capital guidelines.

Apart from being an object lesson in value investing, this is also a timely reminder that financials -- whether in Europe or elsewhere -- are likely to be one of the richest hunting grounds for value right now. Take 140-year-old franchise MetLife (NYSE: MET  ) , for example, which sells at a better than one-third discount to tangible book value and just 6.2 times the estimate of the next 12 months' earnings per share.

Speaking of value, Berkshire itself looks pretty attractive at current levels. To find out why Motley Fool analyst and value maven Joe Magyer thinks "the range of outcomes with Berkshire's stock today skews deeply in investors' favor," click here to request his premium report, which includes 12 months of ongoing coverage.


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