Why do gurus suddenly appear, every time I draw near? I see that Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A) has been nibbling at my cheese -- USG Corp. (NYSE:USG). Not for the first time, we established a position in a company and found that the Great Man of the Plains had muscled in. Or perhaps he was there first this time.
USG was a victim of the great asbestos clambake of the last decades. Plaintiff lawyers across the States, claiming en masse for peritoneal mesothelioma and the like, shook the company into bankruptcy. It emerged this past June owned by assorted parties but with a contingent damages liability capped at $3.05 billion and a friend in Warren Buffett, who underwrote a massive rights issue.
Annualized EBIT is about c.$1.2 billion and the net earnings per share will depend on whether the contingent liability is called. This itself depends on legislation passing in the newly Democratic Congress.
However, even if the maximum claim is made, I estimate the fully diluted, indebted and taxed EPS as $7.32.
This leaves one problem. USG's business is somewhat geared to housing and construction activity, currently taking a long vacation, address unknown, forward no mail.
Our in price is around $47 and at the implied maximum p/e of 6.4 we were happy to take the cyclical risk.
Disclosure: Author is long USG
USG 1-yr chart: