As the world's third-richest person and most celebrated investor, Warren Buffett attracts a lot of attention. Thousands try to glean what they can from his thinking processes and track his investments.
We can't know for sure whether Buffett is about to buy Halliburton
Writing in his most recent 10-K, Buffett lays out the qualities he looks for in an investment. In addition to adequate size, proven management, and a reasonable valuation, he demands:
- Consistent earnings power.
- Good returns on equity with limited or no debt.
- Management in place.
- Simple, non-techno-mumbo-jumbo businesses.
Does Halliburton meet Buffett's standards?
1. Earnings power
Buffett is famous for betting on a sure thing. For that reason, he likes to see companies with demonstrated earnings stability.
Let's examine Halliburton's earnings and free cash flow history:
Source: S&P Capital IQ.
Halliburton's earnings and free cash flow have fluctuated quite a bit over the past five years with the strength of the economy.
2. Return on equity and debt
Return on equity is a great metric for measuring both management's effectiveness and the strength of a company's competitive advantage or disadvantage -- a classic Buffett consideration. When considering return on equity, it's important to make sure a company doesn't have an enormous debt burden, because that will skew your calculations and make the company look much more efficient than it is.
Halliburton generates a fairly high return on equity -- 25% last year and 27% on average of the past five years. It carries a modest debt-to-equity ratio of 31%.
CEO David Lesar has been at the job since 2000. Before that, he held various other positions at Halliburton for a number of years.
Hydraulic fracking has changed the oil and gas services industry considerably, but it still isn't particularly susceptible to technological disruption.
The Foolish conclusion
So is Halliburton a Buffett stock? Possibly. While its earnings fluctuated somewhat with the economy, the company exhibits several of the other quintessential characteristics of a Buffett investment: high returns on equity with limited debt, tenured management, and a straightforward industry. To stay up to speed on Halliburton's progress, simply add it to your stock watchlist. If you don't have one yet, you can create a watchlist of your favorite stocks.