Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK-A) Warren Buffett is a value investor, right? A pair of academics and their new study say otherwise.

Earlier this year, Gerald Martin and John Puthenpurackal of American University and UNLV completed what they call "the first rigorous examination of Berkshire Hathaway's investment performance." Their paper analyzed not only Buffett's sterling stock-picking prowess, but also his investing style. Besides concluding that Buffett's superior investment returns since 1976 were more than just luck -- no surprise there -- Martin and Puthenpurackal concluded that Warren Buffet is ... wait for it ... a large-cap growth investor.

The researchers' definition of growth separates value and growth stocks based on the inverse of book value multiples. It 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.

Still, let's not get too crazy here. Buffett is still very much a value investor by his own definition: He only buys stocks that offer a discount to the company's intrinsic value. However, this study does suggest that if we're looking for Buffett-esque stocks, our best bet is to look for high-quality companies, rather than rummaging 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, trade above book value, and have been highly rated by the CAPS community members. (You can run the same screen and see for yourself.)


TTM Return on Equity

Book Value Multiple

CAPS Rating (max 5)

PotashCorp (NYSE:POT)




Merck (NYSE:MRK)








Genentech (NYSE:DNA)




Marvel Entertainment (NYSE:MVL)




Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's, and CAPS as of Feb. 4.

While these aren't meant to be formal recommendations, they're a great place to kick off some more research. Why don't we start by taking a closer look at IBM?

The anatomy of a growth stock
As CAPS member BSHumphreyII puts it, "This ain't your daddy's Big Blue." That's a big part of the reason why it's landed in front of us here. Though historically a behemoth in the computer hardware arena -- particularly when it comes to mainframes -- the folks at IBM have been steering the giant in a new direction in the past decade, making major moves such as buying the consulting arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, selling its PC division to Lenovo, and continuing to buff out its software business.

The change in focus has allowed Big Blue to avoid having to rely on its stake in the hardware battlefield, where margins continue to shrink as competition grows. At the same time, it's given the company new growth avenues. Today, IBM dukes it out with the likes of Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) and SAP on the software side, and Accenture and Infosys on the services side, but does so in growing markets with higher value-added offerings.

If you ask IBM, it'll tell you that the future looks promising. Despite the global slowdown, the company is anticipating further growth in earnings per share this year, albeit by a small amount. Management expects that customers seeking out the highest-quality IT vendors, coupled with demand for what IBM calls "Smarter Planet" initiatives, will drive its business in the coming years.

IBM's managers aren't the only ones who see promise for the company. Though the company's stock falls short of a perfect five-star rating on CAPS, 2,863 of the 3,206 CAPS members who have weighed in on IBM call it an outperformer. Though some highly ranked CAPS members have given Big Blue the ol' red thumb, the aforementioned BSHumphreyII sums up much of what the thousands of other IBM bulls think:

IBM has cut the dead weight and now they're lean and mean. This is how a bloated company with an outdated business model can turn itself around. GM could stand to learn a thing or two from them. The beginning of this nascent mini-bull market is the perfect time to buy, and I expect them to outperform both their sector and the market at large for years to come.


CAPS or bust
Here's the real question: What do you think of IBM's prospects? Click on over and share your opinion with the 125,000 investors already participating in our CAPS community.

Further CAPS Foolishness:

Berkshire Hathaway and Accenture are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Marvel Entertainment and Berkshire Hathaway are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy thinks Warren Buffett has earned the right to call himself any kind of investor he wants.