Part of the fun of managing my own real-money portfolio has been looking for undiscovered stocks. So far, I think I've found a few. Today, though, there's a more obvious opportunity I just simply can't pass up.
You've probably heard of a little company known as Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) and its obscure, little-heralded CEO, Warren Buffett. With the market moving sideways, it's been tough to find compelling companies at attractive valuations. Right now, Buffett's baby is just too cheap for me to pass up.
You know this already
Berkshire is more than just a company. Its combination of insurance operations, wholly owned businesses, and publicly traded investments gives us a formidable collection of reliable income generators and quality holdings, which should continue to create value for shareholders for years to come.
Stalwarts that play a part in our everyday lives, like Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) , Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) , Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) , and newly added MasterCard (NYSE: MA ) , number among the names in Berkshire's portfolio. Businesses like GEICO, Burlington Northern, Dairy Queen, and MidAmerican Energy reflect the investing acumen of a legend's work.
What's the big idea?
It's cheap: Buffett's proxy of value for Berkshire is book value. From 1994 to 2010, Berkshire traded at an average price-to-book multiple of about 1.8. Today, it's trading for a little more than 1.1 times book value, which gives me reason to believe that today's price is not only fair, but also fairly inexpensive, considering the quality we're getting.
It's Buffett: Perhaps the greatest argument for an investment in Berkshire is the opportunity to ride the coattails of a legend. Since 1965, Buffett has grown Berkshire's book value at a compound annual rate of 20.2%. Sure, we're not likely to see that kind of growth going forward, but I still expect the company to perform well over the long haul.
It's timeless: Buffett has worked hard to create a culture of success that will stand the test of time. Sooner or later, the time will come for Buffett to step down. While I'll be sad to see that happen, I'll also feel comfortable knowing that the company has the values and people in place to stay successful.
Are there really any risks?
On the whole, I consider Berkshire one of the least risky investments around. That's partly because of the man himself, and partly thanks to the wonderfully diverse collection of companies and investments he has created. Of course, the economy presents short-term risks; we aren't out of the woods yet. But in looking at the bigger picture, I see no real reasons for concern. And despite occasional missteps like "Sokolgate," I believe that Buffett has learned immensely from his life's mistakes.
Cool like a Dairy Queen Blizzard
I proposed to my wife over a Dairy Queen Blizzard back in the summer of 2001. Every time I see the shares of Berkshire (which owns Dairy Queen) in my personal portfolio, I get a little grin.
Berkshire may not be the undiscovered gem that I'm constantly looking out for. In fact, it may very well be the most talked-about stock in our Foolish universe. However, while I may be many things, I'm not blind -- I know a good value when I see one. As such, I'm giving Berkshire a 6% ($1,000) position in my portfolio starting tomorrow. I have no doubt it'll give me a lot to smile about for years to come.