Last week’s Heinz deal shows that Warren Buffett is shifting his targets to cope with a more volatile environment. Here are seven more companies that could fit the bill, writes MoneyShow's Jim Jubak, also of Jubak's Picks.
You and I aren’t Warren Buffett, and that means we aren’t going to get the kind of deals that Buffett gets.
Nobody is offering you or me preferred stock yielding 9% in a safe, consumer blue chip, like Buffett got as part of last week’s $23 billion ($28 billion if you include assumed debt) buyout of HJ Heinz (HNZ).
To get 9%, you have to be Warren Buffett, the Sage of Omaha, with a name that brings investment bankers flocking to finance any deal that includes you. (Part of Buffett’s profit from a deal like Heinz is, in essence, a fee for making the financing of a $28 billion deal easier for his other partners.)
But that doesn’t mean you and I have nothing to learn from a deal like this. In fact, I think this one is particularly educational. The Heinz buyout is further confirmation—in case you needed more after looking at Buffett’s other recent moves, like his buyout of railroad Burlington Northern—that Buffett believes in what Pimco bond guru Bill Gross has called “the new normal market” and what I’ve called “the paranormal market.”
The Heinz deal makes the most sense if you see the next decade offering relatively modest returns and a continuation of the high volatility of recent markets. The new normal and paranormal paradigms call for, at best, 5% annual returns from equities.
In the paranormal market, I point to the extreme volatility of 2011 as something we can expect with frequency. (For a description of the new normal and the paranormal paradigms, see my posts Call It the New Paranormal Market and 3 Buys for This New Sideways Market. )
Why do I think the Heinz deal is fit for these kinds of markets? For one, because it’s not the kind of value deal most investors associate with Buffett, though frankly it’s been a long time since he has been a pure value investor.
And because what Buffett is paying up for—what he thinks deserves a premium—is the kind of steady, predictable, somewhat-better-than 5% annual earnings growth that will be hard to find and extremely valuable under the new normal conditions.
Look at a few numbers on Heinz. For the last five years, earnings growth has averaged 7.1% per year. For the next five years, the Wall Street consensus puts earnings growth at 7% annually. The stock pays a dividend of 2.83% a year, and it shows an annual dividend growth rate of 6.3% a year.
For this, Buffett and his co-investor, Brazilian buyout fund 3G Capital, have offered to pay 20 times projected earnings. This is value? Well, yes, if you define value for a new normal/paranormal period.
According to research by Andrea Frazzini and Lasse Pedersen at the investment management firm AQR, Heinz is one of the least volatile big stocks of the last ten years. Its beta is a piddling 0.58%, which means it moves up and down less than the market as a whole. (By definition, the entire market has a beta of 1.)
Despite that lack of volatility—or I should say, in the current period, because of it—Heinz has posted an annual total return of 9.4% over the last ten years. That beats the 6.8% annual return on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index—and even the 7.2% annual return for shares of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B).
The price of the deal reflects that solid, above-market return and what looks like an absolutely predictable cash flow. (A steady cash flow is essential if you own 9% preferred stock, which needs the money to pay out that dividend, even if it is preferred.) After all, even if the stock market tumbles and the economy stumbles, people will buy ketchup and baked beans, right?
What Buffett is willing to pay for this predictability, and this shelter from market and economic volatility, makes more sense once you start looking for other Heinz-like stocks. There just aren’t that many candidates. That’s especially true if you eliminate stocks that Buffett already owns, such as these three:
These numbers look very similar to those for Heinz. So other than these three, who else fits the bill?
NEXT: 4 More Buffett-Worthy Stocks