After a few years of looking around the investing universe and kicking the tires, Warren Buffett finally bagged an "Elephant" teaming together with 3G to buy Heinz (HNZ). However, even after this acquisition, the Oracle of Omaha still has major funds loaded in his elephant gun and is still on the hunt for his next target as he articulated on CNBC recently. So what kinds of companies would make good acquisitions for this renowned investor? I believe they should have the following traits:
A. They should have easy to understand business models
B. Target companies should have reasonable valuations with minor leverage or debt
C. They should have a market capitalization that make them significant additions to the Buffett portfolio but also digestible. Let's say a range of $5B to $20B.
D. Finally, they have to be well run and have managements that could continue to operate the firm while being a part of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) or could be easily run in conjunction with a partner such as 3G.
Here are several companies that I think meet all of these criteria:
V.F. Corporation (VFC) -
V.F. Corporation designs and manufactures various apparel and footwear products primarily in the United States and Europe. It operates well known brands The North Face, Timberland, Vans and JanSport. Obviously this company operates on a very simple business model and comes in with a $19B market capitalization including minor debt. VFC is selling at just over 13x 2014's projected earnings and has a reasonable five year projected PEG (1.34). It has a well-respected management team that has managed to double the stock price over the past five years despite the "Great Recession".
Timken (TKR) -
The Timken Company engineers, manufactures, and markets mechanical components and high-performance steel products worldwide. Just about every industrial, aerospace and manufacturing subsector uses Timken's products. Another well-regarded management team that has produced results that have almost doubled the stock price over the last five years. It has a market capitalization just over $5B and no net debt. TKR certainly is reasonably priced at 11x trailing earnings and 8.5 operating cash flow. The shares also yield 1.6%.
Laboratory Corporation of America (LH) -
Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings is one of the largest independent clinical laboratory companies worldwide. The company provides clinical laboratory tests that are used by the medical profession in routine testing, patient diagnosis, and in the monitoring and treatment of diseases. It is hard to find a more tedious business model than a company built around medical testing. It is also a solid play on the aging of the developed world. The shares are undervalued at under 12x 2014's projected earnings with a five year projected PEG of near 1 (1.16). It is a recession resistant business with revenues growing right through the dark years of 2008 and 2009. Market capitalization including debt is just $10.5B.
Western Union (WU) -
The best known name in the money transfer business. Being a student of the stock market, Buffett would appreciate WU was part of the original Dow Jones Transport Index when it originated in 1884. The company has been in the doldrums recently as the recession hit remittances from the United States to Mexico due to reduced immigration. The shares are cheap at less than 9x earnings. The market also seems to be discounting the company's growth prospects given the stock has a five year projected PEG of under 1 (.97). Western Union's market capitalization with debt included is just north of $10B. Finally, the shares yield 3.4%.
Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) -
Last, but certainly not least is this retailer of towels, linens, kitchen gadgets, dishes and just about everything you need to fill up the cabinets and cupboards of your new home, making it solid derivative play on the recovery of the housing market. It was also profiled as worth 40% more than its current price in a recent Barron's article which also speculated it would be a perfect fit for Berkshire Hathaway. The stock is fairly cheap at just 12x projected 2014's earnings and has a five year projected PEG near 1 (1.06). The company has a pristine balance sheet with no net debt and some $750mm in net cash. After subtracting cash, the company has a market cap of less than $13B.
Disclosure: I am long BBBY.