When it comes to buy-and-hold investing, no one has done it better than Warren Buffett. Over a timeline that spans more than 50 years, he's compounded Berkshire Hathaway's book value at a rate in excess of 19% per year by buying shares of excellent businesses at fair prices, and holding them for years, if not decades, thereafter.
Here, three Fool.com contributors share why they believe Compass Minerals (NYSE:CMP), Chubb (NYSE: CB), and Realty Income (NYSE:O) exhibit the kind of traits found in many of Buffett's best investments.
Take this stock with a grain of salt
Dan Caplinger (Compass Minerals): Warren Buffett doesn't care if a business is sexy as long as it has solid fundamentals. Compass Minerals is a small company that specializes in providing road salt and other winter-weather chemicals primarily to state and local government entities. It also has a plant nutrition division that makes fertilizer to serve markets in both North and South America.
Compass has had to deal with tough times recently, as winter weather conditions have been fairly mild in the two years before the current season. Moreover, some production issues at its Ontario-based Goderich salt mine have put a temporary crimp on capacity, and that's come at a poor time for the company.
Yet longer-term, seasonal issues tend to even out for Compass. Meanwhile, the stock pays a healthy dividend that currently yields more than 6%. Buffett's a big fan of large dividends, and with earnings likely to rebound with a return to more normal weather conditions this year, Compass has the capacity to sustain and even grow its payouts over time.
Buffett would never invest in Compass, because its market cap is so small that he wouldn't be able to take a meaningful position in the stock. Even buying the entire company would barely move the needle for Buffett. Yet with a high dividend and good prospects to reverse its recent share-price slump, Compass Minerals is worth a closer look from investors who are willing to consider small-cap stocks with rebound potential.
One of the best insurers on the market
Jordan Wathen (Chubb): Berkshire Hathaway was built on a solid base of unusually profitable insurance companies, which gave Buffett free float that he could invest for the benefit of the company's shareholders. Now that Berkshire's biggest problem is finding good investments, not getting its hands on even more cash, Buffett is unlikely to be shopping for any major insurance acquisitions. But if he were, I suspect Chubb would make the short list of insurance companies he'd like to have under the Berkshire umbrella.
Like Berkshire's insurance gems, Chubb is unusually profitable, thanks to a combined ratio that has come in 8.7 percentage points lower than its peers from 2008 to June 2018. Its secret sauce, if you can call it that, is patience: The company proudly boasts that it "trades market share for profit," meaning that it happily passes up on growth opportunities because they don't fit its high standards for profitability.
Chubb simply won't grow very quickly, but it doesn't need to. Over the past decade, premiums have only rarely grown much faster than a slow, single-digit annual rate from year to year. But that slow and steady approach has led to exceptional results for shareholders, who have enjoyed total returns that are nearly 2 percentage points higher than the property and casualty insurance industry average over the last 15 years, according to data from Morningstar.
Insurance stocks aren't likely to double overnight or top the list of best-performing stocks in any given year. But insurers with sensible managers who put profit ahead of premium growth can generate tremendous amounts of wealth for their investors over long periods of time. Chubb's conservative underwriting culture and intense focus on shareholder returns make it one such insurance company worth buying and holding for years to come.
Similar to another Buffett stock, but much bigger
Matt Frankel, CFP (Realty Income): One of my favorite recent additions to Berkshire Hathaway's stock portfolio was Store Capital, a net-lease real estate investment trust, or REIT, with a portfolio of mostly retail- and entertainment-occupied properties.
It's not difficult to see why Buffett likes the stock. Store Capital's tenants are generally recession- and e-commerce-resistant businesses. Plus, the long-term net lease structure locks tenants in for a decade or more with annual rent increases built in, and also eliminates uncertainty by shifting property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs to the tenants.
My only problem with the investment is that Store Capital is rather small. Without getting into the details of how REITs work, it's undesirable for any single investor to own more than 10% of a REIT. Store Capital has a $6.7 billion market cap, and it's no coincidence that Berkshire's stake is roughly 9% of that amount.
Another REIT with a similar business model is Realty Income. The general idea is the same -- net-lease freestanding retail properties are Realty Income's focus. The main difference is that with a market cap of nearly $20 billion, Realty Income is much larger, and Berkshire could buy nearly $2 billion of it, which would be more of a needle-moving investment.