Warren Buffett has been nothing short of a master dealmaker for the better part of five decades now. Through a disciplined approach that stresses the understanding of a company's fundamental business model, as well as buying and holding businesses, not stocks, over a very long period of time, Buffett has played Wall Street like a violin.
Dating back to 1970, Buffett's holding company, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B), has not once in 43 years had its five-year average gain in book value per share underperform the average five-year performance of the S&P 500. I can't even begin to describe how phenomenal that is, given the multiple recessions we've endured as a country.
It might just be safe to say that Warren Buffett knows a thing or two about investing and buying undervalued companies. Some of his latest purchases include railroad BNSF, which gives Berkshire exposure to consumer-goods and petroleum shipping, Heinz (through a partnered buyout with 3G Capital), which adds a strong consumer-condiments brand to Buffett's portfolio, and NV Energy, a Las Vegas energy provider that Buffett's energy subsidiary MidAmerican will probably use to expand its alternative-energy platform.
But as we've come to learn from Warren Buffett, he's always on the lookout for undervalued businesses. While the large scope of these previous deals may slow down acquisition activity in the near term, there are always companies on Buffett's radar. Here are three companies that I think would be a perfect fit for Berkshire Hathaway and that I think should be on Warren Buffett's radar.
Clorox has quite a few "Buffetisms" in its favor right off the bat. First, it has an easy-to-understand business model. We're not talking about drug development or bank derivatives here; Clorox is strictly a consumer-goods company that offers an array of cleaning and household products, as well as a lifestyle segment that mainly sells dressings and sauces.
Secondly, many of Clorox's products are set to remain in high demand regardless of economic activity. Bleach, for instance, tends to be an inelastic demand item that'll be purchased by consumers even if we're in a recession. Products like Fresh Step and Scoop Away cat litter, as well as Glad trash bags, also show little pricing pressure if the economy weakens. In short, much of Clorox's product line can be put on autopilot and it would still sell.
Finally, it's as simple as this: Clorox just makes money. Over the past decade, its worst year saw it rake in $342 million in free cash flow. Even including that year, Clorox has been able to generate $5.45 billion in free cash flow since 2003, which is half of its current market value.
Given that it has excellent brand recognition and a product portfolio that could be put on autopilot, I think it'd be an excellent choice for Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.
Total System Services (NYSE:TSS)
Buffett may have been a bit gun-shy with technology and finance stocks of late, but he could combine the best of both worlds by purchasing Total System Services, a software developer and payment processor for the credit card industry.
Total System Services, also known as TSS, has a business model that certainly encompasses more business aspects than Clorox's does, but it's still very much a transparent "what you see is what you get" type of company. Total System has software that's responsible for every aspect of the credit card evolution process, including opening, servicing, and processing payments. It also offers electronic check and fraud prevention and detection services.
Why might Buffett be interested in TSS? I think a big part of the answer lies in the fact that much of the world's transactions are still being done in cash -- 85%, according to MasterCard CFO Martina Hund-Mejean. That leaves literally decades' worth of opportunity for TSS to pick up payment processing and other credit service contracts.
Another factor that would sway heavily in TSS's favor is that it's been steadily increasing book value and boosting its dividend over the past decade. With TSS's annual payout having quintupled since 2003, it could signal to a potential purchaser like Buffett just how sustainable the business model can be.
With nothing short of a depression set to weigh down TSS's business model, it could make the perfect addition to Berkshire Hathaway.
NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE)
Admittedly, this is by far the most outrageous of the three because of the hefty $34 billion market value already attached to NextEra Energy and its $28 billion in debt -- but if anyone can do it, Buffett can!
I highly doubt you'll see Berkshire Hathaway making any plays for an energy company so soon after taking the reins of NV Energy, but there isn't an electric utility that speaks to sustainability more than NextEra.
Chosen as one of my selections to the Basic Needs Portfolio, NextEra Energy is the leader in alternative-energy capacity in the United States. It recently surpassed 10,000 MW of wind-generating capacity and has been regularly contracting with U.S.-based First Solar to expand its solar-generating capacity. President Obama has made no secret that he plans to focus the U.S. on cleaner-burning alternative energies to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. No electric utility is better prepared for this transition than NextEra.
NextEra also hits on all the key fundamental components Buffett would like to see, including a doubling in book value from $19 a share to $38 over the past decade, as well as 18 consecutive years of dividend increases. Being the most socially responsible of all electric utilities could really make NextEra stand out from the crowd when Buffett goes shopping in the future.
Do you have a company you think would be better suit for Buffett to buy? Tell me in the comments section below.