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3 World-Class Businesses At a Reasonable Price

By Alex Dumortier, CFA - Sep 2, 2015 at 1:30PM

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The stock market's recent correction has brought the shares of some exceptional businesses down to attractive levels.

U.S. stocks are partially recovering yesterday's losses, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.03%) and the benchmark S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.01%) up 1.26% and 1.10%, respectively at 1:45 p.m. EDT. The Nasdaq Composite Index is up 1.44%.

What kind of investor are you? Take a look at the following three questions.

How has the stock market turmoil of the last couple of weeks left you feeling, as an investor? 

  1. Energized 

  1. No change 

  1. Despondent 

How has your stock market activity changed during that period? 

  1. Increased buying 

  1. No change 

  1. Increased selling 

As it pertains to your portfolio, are you concerned about whether the Fed starts raising its policy interest in September, December, or some time in 2016? 

  1. Don't care 

  1. Don't care

  1. Very concerned 

If you gave the first answer to all three questions, this article is squarely meant for you. With three 2s, you ought to read on, too. Three 3s and you might be a trader in an investor's clothing: Head straight to Ben Graham's The Intelligent Investor and do not pass "Go."

The recent stock market correction has created genuine opportunities to buy shares of some exceptional businesses -- not at bargain basement prices, to be sure, but at a fair price. That's a good proposition, and one that has been very hard to find over the past couple of years. 

Here are three examples I've identified (there are certainly others).

Shares of Berkshire Hathaway were valued at 1.31 times book value at yesterday's close. Warren Buffett has said he is willing to repurchase the shares up to a multiple of 1.2 times. Given that he would not buy the shares without a discount to his estimate of intrinsic value, it's an excellent bet that the conglomerate is, at 1.31 times book, no worse than fairly valued. 

Speaking of Berkshire, I have written before that pediatric nutrition specialist Mead Johnson Nutrition has the kind of high-quality franchise that would fit right in with its portfolio of consumer brand businesses (actually, I think it's superior to Kraft Heinz). At 18.8 times next year's consensus earnings-per-share estimate of $4.05, the shares might appear expensive, but given the value of its brands and its growth prospects, that's no worse than a fair price. 

Given its ubiquity online and its name recognition, it's hardly surprising that investors bid up shares of PayPal following the electronic payments processor's separation from eBay in July. The stock looked a bit rich, but it has lost 13% over the past fortnight, and 21% from its 52-week high. As with Mead Johnson Nutrition, don't let the 22.8 price-to-earnings multiple of next year's estimated earnings scare you off: With an auspicious position in a payments market that's likely to grow significantly for the foreseeable future, that's a fair price for the company's shares.

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Stocks Mentioned

Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
^DJI
$31,261.90 (0.03%) $8.77
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
^GSPC
$3,901.36 (0.01%) $0.57
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Stock Quote
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
BRK.B
$304.05 (-0.03%) $0.10
Mead Johnson Nutrition Company Stock Quote
Mead Johnson Nutrition Company
MJN
PayPal Holdings, Inc. Stock Quote
PayPal Holdings, Inc.
PYPL
$80.54 (-0.91%) $0.74

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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