Category Archives: Precision Castparts

Commentary: For Berkshire Hathaway, Precision Castparts is Easy as One, Two, Three

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

Now that Berkshire Hathaway has acquired aerospace manufacturer Precision Castparts, exactly what has Berkshire got for all its billions?

One: Berkshire gets a fast-growing company. Precision Castparts’ annual growth rate has been 23% over the past ten years.

Two: Berkshire gets a company with a wide moat, as the costs associated with the aerospace industry create high barriers to entry.

Three: Berkshire gets a company that will benefit from the explosive growth in commercial air travel in India and China over the next two decades.

About Precision Castparts

Precision Castparts manufactures structural investment castings, forged components, and airfoil castings for aircraft engines and industrial gas turbines. It is a world-leading producer of complex forgings and high-performance alloys for aerospace, power generation, and general industrial applications, and its customers include Airbus, Boeing, GE, and Rolls-Royce, among others.

With annual revenues of approximately $10 billion, the company reported $2.412 billion of revenue in the second quarter of 2015. Of that revenue, 72% came from aerospace, 15 % came from power, and 13% came from general industrial and other sales. Operating margins in the last quarter were a healthy 25.7%. The company has a 15% return-on-equity.

The company has 29,350 employees at 157 manufacturing plants.

Strong Management in Place

Unlike both Heinz and Kraft, where 3G Capital took on the duties of replacing senior management, Berkshire is lokking to leave Precision Castparts’ management in place. After all, traditionally that has been one of Berkshire’s acquisition criteria, stating, “Management in place (we can’t supply it).”

In the case Precision Castparts, the company has a strong leader in CEO Mark Donegan, who during his thirteen years at the helm, has led the company to an 11-fold return. Among his strengths, Donegan has a keen eye for the type of “bolt-on” acquisitions that Buffett likes.

An Area Growth for Berkshire

With the Great Recession now in the rear view mirror, airlines are placing large orders to replace aging fleets. These orders, which are primarily to Airbus and Boeing, benefit Precision Castparts as it supplies key components to both the A320neo and 737 MAX.

Doubling the Market

While Precision Castparts manufactures everything high-pressure blades for power generators to medical prosthetics, it is complex metal components for the aerospace industry that not only brings in the majority of its revenues, but also offers solid opportunities for growth.

As large as the commercial market for jets already is, it is expected to double by 2030 due to strong demand from India and China. By 2030, the Asia-Pacific market is expected to grow to 30% of all world-wide passenger mileage.

Boeing predicts that 38,050 new aircraft with a total value of $5.6 trillion will be needed in the next two decades. Roughly 10,500 commercial jets are needed just to replace fleets of old, fuel-guzzling aircraft that are aging out of service.

Locking in a Customer

With the needs of the aerospace market highly specialized, whether its engine turbine blades, or the large wing ribs for the Airbus’s giant A380, there is very little company switching among airplane manufacturers. Witness its relationships with both engine makers Pratt & Whitney and GE that go back over 45 years.

As Berkshire plots its course in the 21st century, it is assured of solid growth in an industry that is highly technical, needs manufacturing on a mammoth scale, and has high cost barriers to entry for potential competitors.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Commentary: A Christmas Wish List for Under Warren Buffett’s Tree

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Here’s a Christmas wish list for presents under Warren Buffett’s tree. The items are big, so we’ll fit them under Charlie Munger’s tree as well.

1. Precision Castparts: There’s nothing like getting the present you bought for yourself. The pending acquisition the aerospace manufacturer looks like the gift that will keep on giving.  Demand for new airplanes will double over the next 15 years, as aging fleets are retired and millions more people start to fly regularly in India and China.

2. Duracell: Because everyone likes to get cash for Christmas! With the Duracell acquisition set to close in February 2016, Berkshire will gain not only the leading alkaline battery manufacturer, but will also get a company recapitalized by P&G with $1.7 billion in cash, and will get huge tax savings as it trades in its appreciated P&G stock for the battery maker.

3. More German Companies: Warren Buffett’s admiration for the German economy was on full display at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in May 2015. This past February, Berkshire Hathaway struck a deal to acquire Devlet Louis Motorradvertriebs, a mail-order and retail chain selling motorbike clothing and accessories. The move, according to Buffett, was just the first small acquisition in a country with a strong economy and work ethic. And, with a rising dollar and a shaky euro, will more German companies fit under Berkshire’s tree?

4. Lots of Natural Gas: As the world dumps coal and moves to cheaper and cleaner forms of energy, Berkshire’s on the verge of striking it rich in Australia’s gas fields. Natural gas prices may be cratering now, but it never hurts to have a majority share of four trillion cubic feet of gas-in-place (yes, trillion) in Australia’s Whicher Range and Wonnerup gas fields. A new test well hopefully will bring good news in the new year.

5. More Auto Dealers: When Berkshire Hathaway jumped into the auto retailing business in March 2015, with its acquisition of the Van Tuyl Group, it added a whole new line of business to the mega-conglomerate. The Van Tuyl Group was the largest privately owned auto dealership group in the U.S., and Buffett promised that this was just the start of building a major auto-retailing empire. So, will Herb Chambers Companies, a privately-held, Boston-based dealership group with 55 total dealerships, be the perfect fit for Berkshire Hathaway Automotive? Its owner looks ready to sell. Time to wrap this one up and put a bow on it.

6. Happy Pilots at NetJets: Forget your crazy uncle, there’s nothing like having a happy family at Christmas. This holiday, NetJets’ pilots and its flight attendants will be celebrating their new contracts that bring substantial raises. Hopefully, they’ll use it to buy some of Berkshire’s fine products. How about some jewelry from Borsheims? It’s been a good year. Go for it!

7. More Solar & Wind! Berkshire’s quickly becoming the leading energy producer and distributor of solar and wind energy. This year saw major wind farm projects, including a new wind farm site in Adams County, Iowa, which will produce 162 megawatts of additional wind generation capacity in Iowa. Berkshire’s aggressive expansion of it solar power farms saw its Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, California, become one of the largest photovoltaic solar farms in the world. And, there’s plenty of room under the tree for more such projects, which not only bring cheap energy, but also lower environmental costs as they are emissions free. With the cost of solar energy dropping fast, Berkshire’s been signing amazing deals that are a Christmas present now and for decades to come. In Nevada, it has contracted to buy electricity from First Solar’s soon to be built Playa Solar 2 at the astoundingly low rate of only 3.87 cents a kilowatt-hour, and the deal is a fixed rate contract for twenty years.

8. More Deals with 3G Capital: Because everyone likes surprises. 3G’s aggressive acquisition strategy has been the perfect partner for Berkshire’s cash. 3G brings not only the aggressive cost-cutting (aggressive is an understatement) that is bringing legacy companies such as Kraft-Heinz into the 21st century, but also gives excellent financing and equity opportunities. 3G’s merger of Burger King with Tim Hortons brought Berkshire fat interest payments and made Berkshire a minority owner of the newly formed Restaurant Brands International. Surely, there are more deals to be done.

Hard to fit this all under the Christmas tree? Berkshire’s a big company. There’s room for all this and more.

Merry Christmas everybody!

–David Mazor

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Is Berkshire Getting Precision Castparts Too Cheap?

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Did Berkshire Hathaway pay too much when they agreed to pay $37.2 billion for aerospace parts manufacturer Precision Castparts?

That seems to be the Wall Street consensus based on the way the stock price has sagged a bit. Analysts slammed the deal, proclaiming that unlike the 2009 takeover of BNSF Railway this is a case of buying at the top of the market, not the bottom.

Buffett Agrees

While Warren Buffett doesn’t believe he is paying too much, after all, he’s buying a company Berkshire plans to still own in a hundred years, he has acknowledged, “This is a very high multiple for us to pay.”

Not So Fast

While almost everyone thinks the price is too high, Georg H. Krijgh of the G.H. Krijgh Guardian Fund, a private partnership based in the Netherlands, thinks it is way too low, and that Buffett has pulled a fast one again.

In a letter to Precision Castparts’ Board of Directors he states:

“Precision Castparts is the largest investment of our fund. We believe that the true value of the company is far in excess of the USD 235 per share offer by Berkshire Hathaway. In our view:
1. An independent Precision Castparts is worth at least USD 40 billion.
2. Berkshire Hathaway is not paying an appropriate premium.
3. Accepting the USD 235 per share offer is not in line with the fiduciary duty of the Board of Directors.
4. We will vote against the proposed sale.

We believe that the PCC Board of Directors is leaving significant value on the table.

We expect earnings of USD 2 billion

First, Mr. Buffett is telling the media that the multiple is high. This might be true based on 2015 earnings but it is incorrect when using future expected earnings and free cash flow. Current earnings are temporarily under pressure due to lower volumes in energy markets. PCC’s aerospace business is much less cyclical than widely believed and the ramp-up of several programs such as the Boeing 737 MAX, A320neo and the H-class turbines is likely to significantly increase earnings per share in the next few years even when energy markets remain weak. Mr. Donegan confirmed this in several recent earnings calls. We believe that free cash flow will grow to USD 2 billion annually.

Multiple of at least 20 times

Second, PCC deserves a high multiple because it has a tremendously strong market position, which is clearly visible by the continuously high return on equity. It is the low-cost and often sole-source provider of mission critical components in a secular growth market, a leader in metallurgical technology, owner of intellectual property and strategic assets such as TIMET and has a strong balance sheet. Especially in these times of low interest rates, PCC deserves a multiple above 20 times earnings. PCC is worth at least USD 40 billion.”

More From Krigh

“Berkshire Hathaway is offering a normal multiple on depressed earnings. Mr. Buffett, whom we greatly respect, and his team have a reputation of finding companies that are not aware of their true fair value. A case in point is Berkshire Hathaway’s takeover of Burlington Northern in 2009. He bought the railroad just before the economy and earnings rebounded. In 2009, shareholders may have been distracted by the credit crisis. Currently, there is no reason to sell for a low price in a hurry. The quoted 21% premium is based on a short-term dip in the share price. For many days during the past year the share price was trading above USD 220, a 6% discount to the offer price.”

Is There Really A Premium?

Krigh cites Precision Castparts’ own stock repurchases to question whether Berkshire is even paying a premium for the stock at all in light of the stock’s 52-week high of $249.12 being above Berkshire’s offer of $235 per share.

“During the past two years, the Board of Directors approved and executed share repurchases at prices around Berkshire Hathaway’s offer price. A significant part of the buybacks seems to have occurred at an average price above USD 230. It is puzzling why you are willing to buy Precision Castparts shares at this price and at the same time sell full control of the business at the same price. In addition, in 2014 and 2015, Berkshire Hathaway bought additional shares of PCC for a price between USD 200 and USD 240. You are aware that they are intelligent investors and only buy when the intrinsic value is significantly higher than the price. This confirms the fact that the USD 235 per share offer is too low.”

So, is Berkshire paying too much or too little? Only time will tell, but when you plan to own something a hundred years or two, it will probably look like quite a bargain at some point.

For Berkshire shareholders alive today, here’s hoping that the bargain is now.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

A Big Win for Todd Combs

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While Warren Buffett gets all the attention for pulling the trigger on Berkshire Hathaway’s biggest deal to date, the $37 billion acquisition of Precision Castparts Corp. It was Todd Combs that first brought the company to Buffett’s attention. Combs took his first position in Precision Castparts three years ago, and at the time of the announcement of Berkshire’s takeover, the stake had grown to 3% of the company.

That the biggest acquisition in Berkshire’s history comes because one of his portfolio managers clearly pleases Buffett. “You have to give Todd Combs credit for the deal,” Buffett said on Monday, noting that he had never heard of the company before Combs brought it to his attention. ”Todd told me a lot about it, and over the last few years I have become familiar with it,” he added.

It wasn’t until Precision Castparts’ CEO and Chairman Mark Donegan visited Berkshire, when he was making the rounds visiting some of the large shareholders, that Buffett got interested in making a bid for the leading aerospace manufacturer.

The Dynamic Duo

Five years ago, Buffett hired stock-pickers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, entrusting each one with a billion dollar portfolio. He placed no restrictions on what they could buy, and he has purposely stayed away from back seat driving. As Buffett’s confidence has grown in the two portfolio managers, he has increased the size of each of their portfolios, which now sit at around $9 billion.

Todd Combs, a Columbia Business School graduate and the former head of the hedge-fund Castle Point Capital, was hired by Buffett in October of 2010. He made a name for himself when Castle Point had an annual return of 34%.

Ted Weschler, who came on board at Berkshire in September of 2011, is a graduate of the Wharton School, and was a partner in Peninsula Capital Advisors, LLC.

A Path Forward for Berkshire

Clearly, whoever assumes the reins at Berkshire post-Buffett now has excellent managers to handle its $100 billion-plus stock portfolio, which includes such blue chip stocks as Coca-Cola, America Express, and Wells Fargo. And, since the biggest job that Berkshire’s CEO has on his plate is capital allocation, both Combs and Weschler also offer another way for the next CEO to identify worthy companies to add to the conglomerate.

The latest one, Precision Castparts, is a big win for Todd Combs, and a big win for Berkshire.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Why Precision Castparts is a Great Fit for Berkshire

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Fresh off his purchase of Kraft in conjunction with 3 G Capital, Warren Buffett looks to have an even bigger target in the sight of his famed “elephant gun.”

News that Berkshire Hathaway is acquiring aerospace manufacturer Precision Castparts Corp. (PCP) for roughly $37 billion highlight’s Berkshire’s continued pursuit of companies with durable advantages that create a wide moat. While manufacturing for aerospace doesn’t have the same moat as a regulated utility or a railroad, it still has a huge barriers to entry due to the high cost of manufacturing specialized parts, and the unlikelihood that a customer will switch suppliers once a plane begins its production run. In short, it’s just the sort of company Warren Buffett loves.

What Buffett also must love just as much is Precision Castparts’ annual growth rate of 23% over the past ten years.

The deal will be Berkshire’s biggest ever, topping its $26 billion purchase of BNSF Railway in 2009.

Berkshire already owns 3% of the Portland, Oregon-based company.

About the Company

Precision Castparts manufactures structural investment castings, forged components, and airfoil castings for aircraft engines and industrial gas turbines. It is a world-leading producer of complex forgings and high-performance alloys for aerospace, power generation, and general industrial applications, and its customers include Airbus, Boeing, GE, and Rolls-Royce, among others.

With annual revenues of approximately $10 billion, the company reported $2.412 billion of revenue in the second quarter of 2015. Of that revenue, 72% came from aerospace, 15 % came from power, and 13% came from general industrial and other sales. Operating margins in the last quarter were a healthy 25.7%. The company has a 15% return-on-equity.

The company has 29,350 employees at 157 manufacturing plants.

Management in Place

Unlike both Heinz and Kraft, where 3G Capital took on the duties of replacing senior management, Berkshire is likely to leave Precision Castparts’ management in place. After all, traditionally that has been one of Berkshire’s acquisition criteria, stating “Management in place (we can’t supply it).”

In the case Precision Castparts, the company has a strong leader in CEO Mark Donegan, who during his thirteen years at the helm has led the company to an 11-fold return. Among his strengths, Donegan has a keen eye for the type of “bolt-on” acquisitions that Buffett likes.

Why It’s a Great Buy for Berkshire

With the Great Recession now in the rear view mirror, airlines are placing large orders to replace aging fleets. Those orders, which are primarily to Airbus and Boeing, benefit Precision Castparts, as it supplies key components to both the A320neo and 737 MAX.

Doubling the Market

While Precision Castparts manufactures everything high-pressure blades for power generators to medical prosthetics, it is complex metal components for the aerospace industry that not only brings in the majority of its revenues, but also offers solid opportunities for growth.

As large as the commercial market for jets already is, it is expected to double by 2030 due to strong demand from India and China. By 2030, the Asia-Pacific market is expected to grow to 30% of all world-wide passenger mileage.

Boeing predicts that 38,050 new aircraft with a total value of $5.6 trillion will be needed in the next two decades. Roughly 10,500 commercial jets are needed just to replace fleets of old, fuel-guzzling aircraft that are aging out of service.

Locking in a Customer

With the needs of the aerospace market highly specialized, whether its engine turbine blades, or the large wing ribs for the Airbus’s giant A380, there is very little company switching among airplane manufacturers. Witness its relationships with both engine makers Pratt & Whitney and GE that go back over 45 years. Berkshire is assured of solid growth in an industry that is highly technical, needs manufacturing on a mammoth scale, and has high cost barriers to entry for potential competitors.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.