Category Archives: Precision Castparts

Commentary: Precision Castparts to Face Long Term Negative Impacts From Airplane Manufacturers’ Woes

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Precision Castparts will have reduced demand over the next decade for its aerospace parts that it supplies to the commercial airline industry, according to a new report issued by Boeing.

Precision Castparts manufactures parts for both Boeing and its rival Airbus, and in February the company laid off 150 Oregon workers as the production Boeing’s 737 MAX was halted. Boeing’s market projections show that its troubles are broader than just the issues it has faced with the 737 Max.

The 2020 Boeing Market Outlook projects that the commercial aviation and services markets will continue to face significant challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while global defense and government services markets remain more stable.

Airlines globally have begun to recover from a greater than 90% decline in passenger traffic and revenue early this year, but a full recovery will take years, according to the Boeing outlook.

As it relates to Precision Castparts’ revenues, the 2020 Boeing Market Outlook includes projects an overall demand for 18,350 commercial airplanes in the next decade – 11% lower than Boeing’s 2019 forecast.

On the positive side, in the longer term, with key industry drivers expected to remain stable, the commercial fleet is forecasted to return to its growth trend, generating demand for more than 43,000 new airplanes in the 20-year forecast time period.

The BMO also projects a $2.6 trillion market opportunity for defense and space during the next decade. This spending projection reflects the ongoing importance of military aircraft, autonomous systems, satellites, spacecraft and other products to national and international defense. This demand continues to be global in nature with 40 percent of expenditures expected to originate outside of the United States.

In addition to the 2020 Boeing Market Outlook, Boeing also released its 2020 Commercial Market Outlook. Its Commercial Market Outlook is the longest-running jet forecast and is regarded as the most comprehensive analysis of the commercial aviation industry. The Commercial Market Outlook forecast projects:

• Over the next 20 years, passenger traffic growth is projected to increase by an average of 4% per year.

• The global commercial fleet is expected to reach 48,400 by 2039, up from 25,900 airplanes today. During this period, Asia will continue to expand its share of the world’s fleet, accounting for nearly 40% of the fleet compared to about 30% today.

• Single-aisle airplanes such as the 737 MAX will continue to be the largest market segment, with operators projected to need 32,270 new airplanes in the next 20 years. Single-aisle demand will recover sooner due to its key role in short-haul routes and domestic markets as well as passenger preference for point-to-point service.

• In the widebody market, Boeing forecasts demand for 7,480 new passenger airplanes by 2039. Widebody demand will be affected by a slower recovery in long-haul markets – typical after air-travel shocks – as well as uncertainties from COVID-19’s impact on international travel.

• Air cargo demand, a relative bright spot in 2020, is expected to grow 4% annually and generate further demand for 930 new widebody production freighters and 1,500 converted freighters over the forecast period.

In summary, the 43,110 projected airplane types projected by Boeing are:

Regional jets 90 and below 2,430
Single-aisle 90 and above 32,270
Widebody 7,480
Freighter widebody 930

Lastly, as it impacts Precision Castparts, the 11% projected decline in demand for commercial airplanes in the next decade does not take into account competition from China’s budding commercial aviation industry. While only in its infancy at this time, it is not clear what threat it will pose to established manufacturers Boeing and Airbus, and whether Chinese commercial planes will use parts manufactured by Precision Castparts, or instead use parts from domestic suppliers.

© 2020 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.

Precision Castparts Lays Off a Quarter of Its Oregon Workforce

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Berkshire Hathaway’s aerospace manufacturer Precision Castparts has turned its previously announced furloughs in Oregon into layoffs, and added additional layoffs at its Clackamas small structures business operations facility.

The company cites the COVID-19 pandemic for the layoffs. The total number of layoffs in Oregon is 717, which represents roughly 24 percent of its workforce in the state.

“As the impact of the pandemic and other macroeconomic factors have weighed on the nation, many of our customers have or intend to curtail or reduce their production,” communications director David Dugan wrote in an email published in the Oregonian. “Due to the resulting impact on orders, we have significantly reduced our workforce to align our production with our customers’ needs.”

Precision Castparts is a worldwide manufacturer of complex metal components and products, provides high-quality investment castings, forgings, fasteners/fastener systems and aerostructures for critical aerospace and power generation applications.

© 2020 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: Buffett’s Cash Pile Not a Source of Ridicule Anymore

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Up until a few weeks ago, Berkshire Hathaway’s enormous pile of cash, which had reached $125 billion, and was growing $1.5 billion a month, was taken by many as a sign of failure on the part of Warren Buffett.

Increasing cries for a dividend, or increased buybacks (despite the stock sitting at or near record highs) was just some of the popular chatter.

What a difference a few weeks makes.

With the markets experiencing extreme volatility, and many businesses forced to close or facing plummeting demand, Buffett’s patience finally looks like it has met conditions where his value investing strategies can excel.

As share prices fall, Buffett clearly has the chance to use his elephant gun to bag his elephant, as he likes to call the acquisition of a major company, which is something he hasn’t done since acquiring Precision Castparts in 2016.

The opportunities are many, as valuations have retreated so significantly that Berkshire now holds more cash than the market valuations of more than 450 companies in the S&P 500, over 80 in the Nasdaq 100, and 11 that make up the Dow 30.

In addition to acquiring his elephant or two, Buffett will certainly have opportunities to help companies shore up their balance sheets through his favorite method—receiving preferred stock that pays generous interest, and receiving warrants for common stock purchases.

The latter, as in the case of his rescue of Bank of America during the Great Recession, pays off handsomely once the economy and stock prices have recovered. As proof, Berkshire now owns just over 9.9% of the bank.

It will be interesting to see what strategies Buffett employs, and whether there are more opportunities in the purchase of whole companies, or in grabbing generous chunks of a wide range of companies. He might even increase his buyback of Berkshire stock, because owning more of one of the world’s healthiest and diversified conglomerates makes sense at these prices.

Perhaps investors big and small should do the same, as Berkshire’s P/E ratio of sat at only 5.38 as of Friday, March 27.

Let’s not forget that in addition to being poised for Berkshire’s expansion while others are contracting, Buffett has also insured the short term and long term health of Berkshire itself. He has always held $20-$25 billion in reserve for the conglomerates own needs during the worst of times.

These might be the worst of times for some, but for Buffett, who famously said in his 1986 Letter to Shareholders, “We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful,” these are the best of times to invest.

In a couple of months, Berkshire’s next 13F filing will reveal just how much stock he and his trust lieutenants Todd Combs and Ted Weschler have acquired, and we may know even sooner if an elephant comes within range.

It will be interesting to see how greedy Buffett gets.

© 2020 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.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Precision Castparts Plans 737 Max Layoffs

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Berkshire Hathaway’s aerospace company Precision Castparts has given pink slips to 150 workers in Oregon.

The layoffs are due to the suspension production of Boeing’s 737 Max.

The company has positions across a broad swath of next-generation commercial platforms, including Boeing’s 737 MAX, 777X, 787, and Airbus’s A320neo and A350 XWB.

There is still no firm date on the resumption of production, however, the latest estimates stretch into the summer of 2020 with some deliveries running up to two years late.

© 2020 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.

Precision Castparts to Build $128 Million Innovation Center in Mason, Ohio

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After a global search, Precision Castparts Corp. has announced a new Mason, Ohio, campus to house a concept research and development integration center for its PCC Aerostructures division and a manufacturing innovation center for its SPS Technologies business.

PCC’s campus will anchor the US Route 42 entrance of the new Mason R&D Park East, where they will invest $128 million in two facilities on 31 acres. The new campus is expected to bring 190 new employees to the city.

The site in Mason’s new 400-acre R&D Park was, in part, selected for its connectivity to complementary aerospace clients and partners along Innovation Way and southwest Ohio.

“We were really impressed with the strong industry partnerships Mason has established in the business community, as well as the state and local collaboration. This is exactly the type of environment we were seeking,” said Blake Ray, Vice President of Advanced Manufacturing at PCC.

“It was really important for us to test this new integration model in an environment where we were in close proximity to vendors and diverse engineering firms, which strengthen the talent pool,” Mark Gancevich, VP of Technology & Innovation for PCC Aerostructures.

PCC is one of the largest build-to-print manufacturers of complex structural and mechanical assemblies in the aerospace industry. With few exceptions, every aircraft in the sky flies with parts made by PCC. The new Mason engineering campus is designed to create innovative concepts in vertical integration and seamless process improvement.

“We are honored PCC and SPS chose to locate in Mason,” said City of Mason Mayor Kathy Grossman. “This announcement is a continued reinforcement of the strong economic position of our city and a reflection of our positive partnership with JobsOhio, REDI and Mason City Schools. We look forward to helping these innovative technology companies grow here.”

“We are fortunate to have a strong, progressive partnership with Mason City Schools, who work seamlessly with our team to support thoughtful economic growth in the city,” said Mason City Manager Eric Hansen. “They are a critical part of our economic development success, which ultimately benefits Mason taxpayers through a reduced share of the tax burden.”

“We have the highest concentrations of aerospace talent in the country, which played a major part in bringing the largest capital investment from an aerospace company to our region so far this year,” said Kimm Lauterbach, President and CEO, REDI Cincinnati. “Seeing complex projects like PCC’s come to fruition for Mason and the Cincinnati region reinforces the fact we have the right people and partnerships in place to help businesses achieve their goals and set their sights on continued growth.”

The State of Ohio, JobsOhio, and Mason City Council each approved incentive packages for the new PCC Campus investment. Mason City Council approved an ordinance authorizing an economic agreement with the company for an incentive package to include a Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) Tax Abatement, Mason Port Authority Infrastructure and Wellness Incentives, which will bring 190 jobs within four years with a $14.55 million payroll and overall investment of $128 million. In addition, the State of Ohio approved a Jobs Creation Tax Credit, and JobsOhio plans to offer assistance, which will be made public after a final agreement is executed.

© 2019 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.

Precision Castparts Making Progress on Pollution Mitigation

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Berkshire Hathaway’s Precision Castparts is making progress on its mitigation of heavy metals pollution at its Portland, Oregon plant, according to the Department of Environmental Quality.

The DEQ’s report notes that stormwater testing shows that water discharged into Johnson Creek is no longer contaminated thanks to the water filtration tank system that Precision Castparts installed in 2016.
Under the supervision of the EPA, contaminated soil on the property has been removed.

“In a portion of the site, there were some impacted areas affected by PCBs — or polychlorinated biphenyl — contamination so we had some sampling done there and discovered that there were impacts,” DEQ NW Region Cleanup and Site Assessment Manager Paul Seidel said on KOIN TV. “So that has been cleaned up in part under US-EPA oversight. There’s still more work to do there but there’s been a substantial amount of work completed in the last several years.”

© 2019 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.

Strike Over at Berkshire Hathaway-Owned Plant

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The strike is over at a Berkshire Hathaway-owned metals plant in upstate New York.

More than 200 workers at Berkshire Hathaway’s Specialty Metals spent three weeks walking a picket line. At issue were the long hours workers put in at the plant, which runs 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Workers ratified a new contract on Saturday morning and they will be back to work as of Monday.

The Special Metals plant in New Hartford, New York, produces premium quality nickel base superalloys for both static and rotating aerospace and land-based gas turbine applications.

Specialty Metals is owned by Berkshire Hathaway’s Precision Castparts Corp., which is a global conglomerate operating in more than a dozen countries that manufactures complex metal components and products, high-quality investment castings, forgings and fastener systems for power generation, aerospace, space exploration, military and other mission-critical applications.

© 2019 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.

Workers on Strike at Berkshire Hathaway-Owned Plant in Upstate New York

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More than 200 workers at Berkshire Hathaway’s Specialty Metals have gone on strike. At issue are the long hours workers are working at the plant, which runs 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

The Special Metals plant in New Hartford, New York, produces premium quality nickel base superalloys for both static and rotating aerospace and land-based gas turbine applications.

The strike began on Saturday, and there are 211 employees, along with 25 technicians, that are walking a picket line.

Ron Zegarelli, chief steward at Special Metals, explained that the company is requiring workers to work 60-hour, six day weeks.

“Our guys are fed up,” Zeigler told the Observer-Dispatch, “I told (management) it wasn’t going to work.” He noted that some employees had marital problems, including divorce, due to the demands of a job that keeps them away from home for so much of the week.

The plant is continuing to operate during the strike.

“Special Metals negotiated in good faith and made a fair and equitable offer,” David Dugan, director of communications for Special Metals. “As a result of the vote, we are executing our contingency plans, including having our salaried employees operate our equipment. Through these and other actions, such as leveraging other production facilities, we are well positioned to meet our customers’ needs as negotiations continue.”

Specialty Metals is owned by Berkshire Hathaway’s Precision Castparts Corp., which is a global conglomerate operating in more than a dozen countries that manufactures complex metal components and products, high-quality investment castings, forgings and fastener systems for power generation, aerospace, space exploration, military and other mission-critical applications.

© 2019 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.

Lawsuit Against Precision Castparts Could Become a Class-Action Suit

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Since 2016, Berkshire Hathaway’s Precision Castparts, a manufacturer of investment castings, forged components, and airfoil castings for use in the aerospace, industrial gas turbine, and defense industries, has been facing a lawsuit over pollution from its South Portland, Oregon, operations.

The plaintiffs, Kelley Foster, Juan Prat-Sanchez, Kirk Gayton, and Debra Taevs, allege in their suit that the “South Portland Operations release significant amounts of pollution, including arsenic and nickel, into the surrounding neighborhood. PCC’s emissions have created a hotspot of pollution in South Portland.”

The plaintiffs all live in South Portland, and cite a 2013 study by the United States Forest Service that collected tree moss as a bioindicator of air pollution.

The suit maintains that a map created by the Forest Service “demonstrate that there is a significant air pollution hotspot surrounding PCC’s South Portland Operations, where nickel, arsenic, and other hazardous air pollutants appear in high concentrations.”

As of October 2016, the lawsuit has been consolidated with a similar lawsuit by plaintiffs Brian Resendez, Rodica Alina Resendez, Michelle Francisco and Matthew Talbot that is seeking $10 million in damages.

A motion before the Multnomah County Circuit Court is seeking to certify the litigation against Precision Castparts as a class-action lawsuit, which would potentially add the residents of roughly 5,000 residential properties to the suit.

A jury trial has been tentatively scheduled for mid-July 2020.

© 2019 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: Bolt-On Acquisitions Continue to Power Berkshire’s Growth

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With the price of acquiring large businesses high, Berkshire Hathaway has been hard-pressed to spend down its $116 billion cash hoard on a major acquisition or two. Its proposed $143 billion Unilever bid, made in conjunction with 3G Capital Partners, fell on deaf ears, and other than an agreement to acquire Pilot and Flying J travel centers, the big fish have remained elusive.

However, Berkshire’s bolt-on acquisitions, which add capability and value to its existing businesses, have continued unabated, and were highlighted by Warren Buffett in his annual letter to shareholders.

In the letter, Buffett noted some of the larger acquisitions.

“Clayton Homes acquired two builders of conventional homes during 2017, a move that more than doubled our presence in a field we entered only three years ago. With these additions – Oakwood Homes in Colorado and Harris Doyle in Birmingham – I expect our 2018 site built volume will exceed $1 billion.

Clayton’s emphasis, nonetheless, remains manufactured homes, both their construction and their financing. In 2017 Clayton sold 19,168 units through its own retail operation and wholesaled another 26,706 units to independent retailers.

All told, Clayton accounted for 49% of the manufactured-home market last year. That industry-leading share – about three times what our nearest competitor did – is a far cry from the 13% Clayton achieved in 2003, the year it joined Berkshire.

Both Clayton Homes and PFJ are based in Knoxville, where the Clayton and Haslam families have long been friends. Kevin Clayton’s comments to the Haslams about the advantages of a Berkshire affiliation, and his admiring comments about the Haslam family to me, helped cement the PFJ deal.

Near the end of 2016, Shaw Industries, our floor coverings business, acquired U.S. Floors (“USF”), a rapidly growing distributor of luxury vinyl tile. USF’s managers, Piet Dossche and Philippe Erramuzpe, came out of the gate fast, delivering a 40% increase in sales in 2017, during which their operation was integrated with Shaw’s. It’s clear that we acquired both great human assets and business assets in making the USF purchase.

Vance Bell, Shaw’s CEO, originated, negotiated and completed this acquisition, which increased Shaw’s sales to $5.7 billion in 2017 and its employment to 22,000. With the purchase of USF, Shaw has substantially strengthened its position as an important and durable source of earnings for Berkshire.

I have told you several times about HomeServices, our growing real estate brokerage operation. Berkshire backed into this business in 2000 when we acquired a majority interest in MidAmerican Energy (now named Berkshire Hathaway Energy). MidAmerican’s activities were then largely in the electric utility field, and I originally paid little attention to HomeServices.

But, year-by-year, the company added brokers and, by the end of 2016, HomeServices was the second-largest brokerage operation in the country – still ranking, though, far behind the leader, Realogy. In 2017, however, HomeServices’ growth exploded. We acquired the industry’s third-largest operator, Long and Foster; number 12, Houlihan Lawrence; and Gloria Nilson.

With those purchases we added 12,300 agents, raising our total to 40,950. HomeServices is now close to leading the country in home sales, having participated (including our three acquisitions pro-forma) in $127 billion of “sides” during 2017. To explain that term, there are two “sides” to every transaction; if we represent both buyer and seller, the dollar value of the transaction is counted twice.

Despite its recent acquisitions, HomeServices is on track to do only about 3% of the country’s home-brokerage business in 2018. That leaves 97% to go. Given sensible prices, we will keep adding brokers in this most fundamental of businesses.

Finally, Precision Castparts, a company built through acquisitions, bought Wilhelm Schulz GmbH, a German maker of corrosion resistant fittings, piping systems and components.”

But Wait, There’s More!

Sometimes Berkshire’s bolt-on acquisitions get little attention. Such was the case in the summer of 2017, when Berkshire acquired Warren, Michigan-based MRO distributor Production Tool Supply, and created a new wholesale division, Berkshire eSupply.

At the time, the company was ranked 34th on Industrial Distribution’s 2017 Big 50 List.

And the Bolt-On Acquisitions Continue in 2018

QS Partners, the aircraft brokerage subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets, acquired aircraft brokers Cerretani Aviation Group of Boulder, Colorado.

Berkshire’s Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, a financier of manufactured and modular homes, acquired Silverton Mortgage. Silverton Mortgage has 22 locations and is licensed in Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

And, Berkshire’s Marmon Holdings acquired Sonnax Industries, Inc. and formed a newly-created subsidiary called Sonnax Transmission Company. Sonnax is an industry leader in the cutting edge design, manufacture and distribution of the highest quality products to the automotive aftermarket, commercial vehicle industries, and industrial sectors utilizing drivetrain technology.

So, if you think that Berkshire Hathaway is sitting still, think again.

© 2018 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.