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.