Last December, I dubbed French investment company Wendel Investissement (OTCBB: WNDLF.PK) "Europe's Berkshire Hathaway"
The most important measure for Wendel, net asset value per share, grew from 85 euro in December 2005 to 109 euro a year later, a 30% leap. Since then, Wendel estimates that NAV has risen a further 7% in the first quarter, to 117 euro. The company has roughly tripled its NAV since my first investment in 2003.
Net income from the companies Wendel owns rose 23% to 363 million euro. Wendel's results included zero revenue from asset sales in 2006, unusual for a holding company. That tells me two things: Wendel is a patient owner/operator of the companies it acquires, and the potential for upside revenue surprises is higher in 2007 if new asset sale opportunities arise.
Wendel will pay out a 2-euro special dividend, exceeding its goal of 15% dividend growth annually. In addition, Wendel will cancel treasury shares worth just less than 10% of the group's current capital, increasing public ownership in the company from 53% to 59%. This will increase EPS and NAV under European accounting standards, even though it's not a buyback in the open market.
The company's investment plan calls for 3 billion euro in new equity investments in listed and unlisted companies in coming years, and another 2 billion euro to expand the group's current subsidiaries. Wendel will also IPO its Bureau Veritas subsidiary, an international quality control compliance firm, keeping a majority share.
Wendel's goal for 2012 is simple: Double the group's value again. Along the way, it is changing its name from Wendel Investissement to simply "WENDEL." But it remains Europe's premier private equity investment firm, well worth holding for long-term gains.
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Fool contributor Dale Baker, a private client portfolio manager and former U.S. diplomat with extensive experience in Europe and Africa, owns shares in Wendel Investissement and Berkshire Hathaway B shares for himself and his clients. He welcomes your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.Berkshire Hathaway is an Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.