I am retired and take educated guesses on all things financial.

January 12, 2009

January 13, 2009: Conglomerates, Easy Pickings?

Back in the good old days of Dow 900, the Chevy Nova and Jimmy Carter's brother urinating on an airport runway after a few too many Billy Beers, companies that bought companies for no other reason than to enlarge were blessed as conglomerates and traded in a similar fashion to techs in the mid-90s (without the 24/7 media hype and talking heads goading potential investors, of course). Investors soured on them when the realization set in that many of these acquisitions were bought for no sane reason and then poorly managed into fiscal oblivion.

Conglomerates may well be returning to favor. This time, a few are focused using the Buffet model and others are straight-up value plays that may prove to be winners when the economy rebounds - maybe even a bit earlier.

Sure, there are companies of this genre that are stinkers, but a few may offer compelling returns over time. Here are some that are presently trading below a PE of 10, based upon their most recent earnings report:

GE - General Electric
Trading at $15.92/share, 52 week range $12.68-38.62, Div. 7.83%

PHG - Philips Electric ADR
Trading at $19.56/share, 52 week range $14.71-41.68, Div. 6.73%

DOV - Dover Corporation
Trading at $31.97/share, 52 week range $23.39-64.67, Div. 3.13%

FO - Fortune Brands
Trading at $40.31/share, 52 week range $30.24-74.44, Div. 4.37%

NHYDY - Norsk Hydro ADR
Trading at $3.83/share, 52 week range $2.72-17.20, Div. 25.91%

LUK - Leucadia National
Trading at $19.39/share, 52 week range $12.19-56.90, Div. 1.29%

TXT - Textron
Trading at $14.50/share, 52 week range $10.09-65.62, Div. 6.19%

TKS - Tomkins ADR
Trading at $7.93/share, 52 week range $5.22-15.25, Div. 11.23%

TIN - Temple-Inland
Trading at $4.70/share, 52 week range $2.34-20.49, Div. 8.62%

As the rumblings of World War 2 were being heard around the world, Sir John Templeton borrowed money and bought $100.00 each of all Dow components. He made a bundle of cash after events which make our current recession appear as child's play successfully concluded, even though some of his holdings performed very poorly.

Could the same scenario occur with today's ultra-low PE conglomerates? For sure, odds are they will outperform a significant percentage of genius talking heads and their hot picks over the duration of this recessionary cycle.

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