Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett is a value investor, right? Everyone knows that!

Well don't tell that to Gerald Martin and John Puthenpurackal of American University and UNLV. In 2008, the two completed what they call "the first rigorous examination of Berkshire Hathaway's investment performance," a paper that analyzed not only the superior investment performance of Buffett, but also looked at his investing style.

Besides concluding that Buffett's superior investment returns since 1976 were more than just luck -- as if we didn't know that already! -- Martin and Puthenpurackal concluded that Warren Buffett is ... wait for it ... a large-cap growth investor.

The definition of growth that the researchers used was one that separates value and growth stocks based on the inverse of book value multiples and classifies value stocks as those with the highest book-to-market ratio and pegs those with the lowest as growth stocks. According to the paper, growth stocks accounted for more than 40% of Berkshire's investments, while true value picks made up less than 20% of Buffett's buys.

But let's not get too crazy here. After all, Buffett is still very much a value investor by his own definition -- that is, he only buys stocks that offer a discount to the company's intrinsic value. But what this study does suggest is that if we're looking for Buffett-esque stocks, our best bet is to look for high quality companies rather than rummage through the bargain bin.

To track down some stocks that might fit the bill, I've enlisted the help of The Motley Fool's CAPS community and its stock screener. I focused my search on stocks that are returning 10% or more on their equity, are trading above book value, and have been highly rated by the CAPS community members (you can run the same screen by clicking here).


TTM Return on Equity

Book Value Multiple

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM)




Merck (NYSE:MRK)




Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)




Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT)




Western Union (NYSE:WU)




Source: CAPS as of Aug. 20, 2009.

While these aren't meant to be formal recommendations, they're a great place to kick off some more research. In fact, why don't we start by taking a closer look at Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Western Union.

The anatomy of a growth stock
The beauty of Western Union starts with the fact that the company has a huge presence. At the end of 2008 the company services were featured at more than 375,000 locations in 200 countries. A network like that can't be built overnight and is sure tough to compete against.

Despite the massive number of locations that the company already has there are still growth opportunities ahead. For instance, with more than 85% of Western Union agent locations outside of the U.S. the company is well positioned to benefit from high-growth countries like China, Russia, and India. While banks like Citigroup (NYSE:C) and HSBC (NYSE:HBC) have footprints across the globe, the services offered by Western Union are more convenient and accessible for many consumers -- particularly in developing countries.

It certainly doesn't hurt that the company is also very financially sound. While it has what looks like a scary amount of debt -- particularly when compared to shareholder equity -- it produces more than enough profit to cover its interest payments many times over. And the cash flow that the company's operations spit out is enough to cover its capital spending and fund major share buybacks.

CAPS or bust!
The votes are in and CAPS members have awarded Western Union's stock a perfect five-star rating. Over 1,230 members rated the stock an outperformer versus just 30 that think it will lag the market.

CAPS member mateub is among these Western Union bulls. This CAPS All-Star gave the stock a thumbs up way back in March of 2007 and wrote:

Globalization improves the mobility of labor along with goods. Those working abroad often send money home, and Western Union is there to help them do it. Wiring money may not have the glamor of a .com business, but the network effect still applies. The global market keeps expanding, and [Western Union] has less than 20% share of the existing market.

But here's the real question: what do you think of Western Union's prospects? Let the CAPS community know what you think by clicking over and sharing your opinion with the 135,000 investors already participating.

Further CAPS Foolishness:

Western Union and Berkshire Hathaway are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Coca-Cola, Berkshire, and Western Union are Inside Value recommendations. Coke is also an Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns some of Berkshire. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and Coca-Cola, but does not own shares of any of the other companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool. The Fool's disclosure policy wishes that you could transfer cheeseburgers through Western Union. If you could it'd send In 'N Out burgers to the poor folks on the East Coast.