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South Africa-based Sasol makes a variety of chemicals, as well as liquid fuels and electricity. A petrol attendant fills a car with fuel at a Sasol Ltd. gas station in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Sasol Ltd., the largest producer of motor fuels made from coal, beat analysts' earnings estimates and raised its dividend payment by 24 percent after increasing production and cutting costs. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg (Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg)
South Africa-based Sasol makes a variety of chemicals, as well as liquid fuels and electricity. A petrol attendant fills a car with fuel at a Sasol Ltd. gas station in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. Sasol Ltd., the largest producer of motor fuels made from coal, beat analysts' earnings estimates and raised its dividend payment by 24 percent after increasing production and cutting costs. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg (Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg)

Strategy

A trio of value stocks in the Buffett mould Add to ...

John Reese is founder and CEO of Validea.com and Validea Capital Management, and portfolio manager for the Omega American & International Consensus funds. Globe Investor has a distribution agreement with Validea, a premium Canadian stock screen service. Try it.

In the half century since Warren Buffett took over Berkshire Hathaway, so much has changed in the investing world. From the rise of day trading, to the advent of the Internet and 24-hour financial news, to the high-frequency trading that often dominates today’s market, the very nature of how many people invest has shifted dramatically as the decades have passed.

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But through it all, Mr. Buffett continues to embrace the same long-term value investing approach that he has used throughout his career. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Mr. Buffett talked about the increasingly short-term horizons most investors have. He noted that an investor couldn’t buy 10 per cent of the farmland in Nebraska in three years if he or she wanted to, because farmland isn’t up for sale often enough to do so. Yet he was able to buy 10 per cent of a giant company like IBM in about half a year because people trade stocks so frequently.

“The idea that people look at their [stock] holdings in such a way that that kind of volume exists means that to a great extent, it’s a casino game,” he said – and that sort of short-term game isn’t one he’s willing to play.

Why has Mr. Buffett stayed so true to his long-term, value investing roots when so much around him has changed? The answer is quite simple: because value investing works. A recent study performed by The Brandes Institute, which covered the last 45 years of stock market returns, found that “the long-term results confirm a historically persistent value premium measurable across global equity markets.” The study found that value stocks have over the long term outperformed “glamour” stocks (those with higher valuations) not only in the U.S., but also in other developed markets and emerging markets.

That doesn’t mean that value always wins, of course. In recent years, growth stocks have tended to outperform value plays. But – as Mr. Buffett and Brandes have shown – over the long run, it pays to stick with value stocks and ride out shorter-term periods of value’s underperformance.

Right now, there is a myriad of attractive value stocks out there selling at great prices. Here are a handful from the U.S. and Canada that my Buffett- and Benjamin Graham-inspired Guru Strategies (which are based on the published approaches of those two value legends) are high on.

AstraZeneca PLC (AZN)

This London-based pharmaceutical giant, which has a market capitalization of $60-billion (U.S.), is a favourite of my Buffett-based model. The strategy looks for firms with lengthy histories of earnings growth, manageable debt, and high returns on equity (which is a sign of the “durable competitive advantage” Mr. Buffett is known to seek).

AstraZeneca, has had just two relatively minor earnings-per-share declines in the past 10 years; has enough annual earnings ($6.1-billion) that it could pay off its $9.3-billion in debt in less than two years if it had to; and its 10-year average return on equity is an impressive 31.5 per cent. Throw in an earnings yield of 10.1 per cent, which is nearly five times the yield on a long-term Treasury bond, and the stock passes the Buffett model with a 100-per-cent score. (Less than one-half of one per cent of all U.S.-traded stocks obtain 100 per cent from my Buffett model).

Sasol Ltd. (SSL)

South Africa-based Sasol operates in over three dozen countries, making a variety of chemicals, as well as liquid fuels and electricity. The $27-billion firm gets strong interest from my Graham-based model, thanks in part to its solid 2.12 current ratio and $4-billion in net current assets (versus $1.5-billion in long-term debt). The strategy also likes Sasol’s 1.9 price-to-book ratio and 11.2 P/E (using three-year average earnings).

Home Capital Group (HCG)

This Toronto-based firm, (parent of Home Trust Co., a mortgage lender), is the highest-scoring stock in the Canadian market right now, according to my Buffett-based model. A few reasons the strategy likes the stock so much: Home Capital has hiked its EPS in every year of the past decade; it has averaged a 28-per-cent return on equity over the past 10 years; and it has an earnings yield of nearly 11 per cent.

Full disclosure: I’m long AstraZeneca and Sasol.

 
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