“Nobody Ever Gets Fired for Buying NOV”

Miller attributes his company’s success to both customer loyalty and an expanding industry.

Feb 18, 2014 at 1:46PM

With operations in over 1160 locations worldwide, National Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV) is a leading provider of equipment and services to the oil and gas industry through its three segments; Rig Technology, Petroleum Services & Supplies, and Distribution & Transmission. CEO Merrill "Pete" Miller has held a number of senior executive positions with NOV, beginning in 1996. Miller also serves on the boards of Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK), Offshore Energy Center, Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association, and Spindletop International.

National Oilwell Varco is part of The Motley Fool's Everlasting Portfolio and Warren Buffett recently upped his stake in the company as well. In this video segment Miller discusses NOV's earnings, and what it was like to be vetted by Buffett's staff. The full version of the interview can be found here.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Taylor Muckerman: We follow this company quite regularly on a lot of our podcasts that we provide. It's part of our Everlasting Portfolio; our CEO Tom Gardner basically build a portfolio of companies where he's never going to sell them, and he recommends that for our investors as well.

When we've talked about that over the last couple of quarters, everyone's mentioned the revenues continue to grow.

We'll take an earnings hit for a quarter or two because we realize that the business itself is still growing, while other companies' revenues have kind of slowed down a little bit, even though they're pulling some financial accounting tricks to boost their earnings. It's not too much of a worry for us.

How have you been able to increase those sales? Is it a National Oilwell Varco thing, or is it industry specific?

Pete Miller: I think it's a combo of both. At the end of the day, I tell people, "No one ever got fired for buying IBM (NYSE:IBM), and nobody gets fired for buying NOV." You get a lot of companies that are upstarts that want to come in there and get on our turf, but I think we protect that turf pretty well.

We're gaining even new customers, but we're gaining more and more loyalty, while at the same time the industry's expanding, so you're getting a couple pops. There's a greater demand, but we're getting a bigger part of that greater demand.

Muckerman: Part of your investing community that is not worried about getting fired, but he enjoys buying into your company; Warren Buffett upped his stake to 7.5 million shares in National Oilwell Varco, and he's not the kind of guy that buys into something that he doesn't know.

What were talks like with him? I'm sure you spoke on a pretty regular basis when he was initiating those deals, so what's it like to sit down with Warren Buffett?

Miller: We basically talked to a lot of the people on the staff. What I find with them is that they're very, very thorough. They understand the business. These aren't people that are jumping in to make a profit in a quarter and get back out.

I think their analysis of the business is probably as in-depth as anybody that I've ever seen. They ask questions that are prescient. You can sit there and you go, "Wow. I'm surprised that they would know that."

They've really dug into it. They went out and talked to customers. They talked to people that we did business with. They talked to vendors. When you look at the thoroughness, and that's why we feel really good -- we love all of our shareholders -- but we really love the fact that he has enough confidence in us that he's saying, "We're going to put some money right there."

We think that's almost the seal of Good Housekeeping. That's a neat deal for us.

Taylor Muckerman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends National Oilwell Varco. The Motley Fool owns shares of International Business Machines and National Oilwell Varco. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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