What Company Do You Love? [Fool on the Hill] July 5, 2000

FOOL ON THE HILL: An Investment Opinion
What Company Do You Love?

By Bill Mann (TMF Otter)
July 5, 2000

Summary: I love owning Caterpillar, and scan every construction site I come across looking for equipment from MY company. Some Fools share their feelings of pride in ownership in companies ranging from Applied Materials to Starbucks.

No Foolish takes here today, folks. We're talking about the polar opposite of mechanical or unemotional investing. The question is simple: you are an owner of every stock in your portfolio. Which one do you LOVE owning?

There are different reasons one would love a company they own. The most obvious reason would be that it has provided a really strong return in the market. Kind of tough not to love a ten-bagger (a company that has appreciated ten times what you paid for it). That's what investing is all about, right? It's not charity, nor is it a status symbol. There is no application to see if someone has the social standing to own Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL), for example. The stock market is a great equalizer. Anyone, regardless of education, financial or social status, can invest in any public company. Well, one must have some means to invest in Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A), at $53,000 per Class A stub (or a bargain $1750 per B), but for the most part anyone with the means to afford a share of a company can in fact become an owner of that company.

But just getting wealthy on a company is a pretty, well, unimaginative reason to love it. Not that imagination is required for investing either. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that successful long-term investing requires that you dial the creativity-meter back a little, that qualitative analysis is superior to doe-eyed idealism when it comes to companies. But that does not mean that we should not be allowed to like the companies that we hold, right?

And let's be frank: for some companies, being an owner is a pretty cool concept. These companies provide a strong emotional bond. Ben & Jerry's (Nasdaq: BJICA), with its strong tendency of social activism and Vermont boosterism, has created quite a relationship with its shareholders, so much so that there was some gnashing of teeth when the company was being courted by Dutch conglomerate Unilever (NYSE: UL) for purchase. Some people who own Coca Cola (NYSE: KO) would rather kiss a slug than buy a Pepsi (NYSE: PEP) product. And yes, that knife cuts both ways, some Pepsi people would rather drink a botulism cocktail than Coke.

For me, my greatest emotional connection with a company stems from a lifelong love of heavy equipment, earth movers, really big stuff. So one of the first companies I ever bought was Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT). I mean, is there a company in existence with a more evocative name than "Caterpillar"? Whenever I drive past a construction site, of which there are about a billion around Fool HQ, I do a quick survey to make sure that the bulldozers, dump trucks, graders, and other heavy equipment is from MY company. This is truly a Tim Allen type company, the type of place that builds equipment that does things like knock down buildings. Dave Barry recently wrote about "North Texas Earthmoving Day", where people needing such equipment can do a field assessment. As I read this, I was seething with jealousy.

Ah, but what about you? Certainly I'm not alone here. I've asked around both here at Fool HQ and in the community, and I've gotten some great responses from people. Almost without exception, people were willing to say that even though they do not invest in companies on emotional bases, that yes, there was a company that they liked holding best of all.

Here is a list of Fools and comments, in no particular order. I hope you enjoy them.

TMF Fletch -- Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT) -- I like the fact that no matter what way technology advances, Applied Materials is going to be one of the major providers of chip-making equipment.

geoffchase -- Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN) -- I always check to see if some new gadget is using their components.

Simper -- AES (NYSE: AES) -- They talk about trying to change the world, cleaning up power plants in developing countries.

TMF Weasel -- I couldn't afford anything there, so I bought my wife shares in Tiffany (NYSE: TIF) instead.

OtterPater -- Every time I use my cell phone I think of how great it is to own Nokia (NYSE: NOK).

WonderPup -- I'm more evangelistic about the industry than the company, but I believe that as Ballard Power (Nasdaq: BLDP) goes, so goes the fuel cell industry.

TMF Jeff -- I love the fact that no one knows what is going to happen with (Nasdaq: AMZN).

TMF Czar -- Citigroup (NYSE: C) -- Every time I use my bank card, I am reminded that I am part of the problem. (Read Keith's Citigroup ouvre in "Stocks Fools Love")

IrishSpy -- I love my Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) stock. They're the best dang computers I've ever used.

TMF Centaur -- I used to walk into every watch shop and ask them about their sales of Fossil (Nasdaq: FOSL). The answer was usually good.

Candow -- Rambus (Nasdaq: RMBS). No doubt about it.

TomGardner -- Nokia. My favorite sort of brand. I see those little colorful phones everywhere.

TMF Panic -- As an unreformed couch potato, I get to see an awful lot of DirecTV ads. My company, Hughes Electronics (NYSE: GMH), owns it.

TMF Max -- So, do you want to go to Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX)? I'm only on my fifth cup of coffee.

TMF Lou2 -- Yeah, Starbucks. Can we go right now?

jtrudel -- I love owning ImmunoGen (Nasdaq: IMGN). This little company has an elegant approach to curing cancer.

TMF Wizard -- Coca Cola. I get jazzed every time I see Big Red.

TMF Bobdog -- For the life of me I can't figure out why Vans (Nasdaq: VANS) is a $14 stock. Go to any skate park and see what the skaters are wearing.

TMF Gump -- I think that Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN) is the company that I'm most confident about in terms of potential. That's what I love. Potential.

TMF School -- I've loved Urban Outfitters (Nasdaq: URBN) forever, but I'm really addicted to Anthropologie.

Your Turn
What about you? What stock do you love being an owner of? Don't be shy, we won't think less of you for being a little misty about one of your holdings. Come share the love on the Fool on the Hill discussion board.

Fool on! (Time to go test drive a dump truck with 12-foot tires)

Bill Mann, TMFOtter on the Fool Discussion Boards