Tag Archives: Share repurchases

Buffett Tutorial on Accounting and Valuation: See’s Candies Case Study

I have always maintained that excepting fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work.  –Charles Darwin

Value investing works, because it does NOT work ALL the time. –Joel Greenblatt

Today’s post focuses on accounting (GAAP) and valuation through the words of Warren Buffett. The case study on See’s Candies and the other readings will help improve your skills. The burden is on you to understand and apply the lessons. If you do not understand FIFO or deferred taxes, then look up those terms in a basic accounting book, then do problem sets to grasp the concepts. Don’t take Buffett’s words on faith; try to apply the concepts of economic Goodwill to a commodity based company like, for example, US Steel (X) versus a franchise company like Coca-Cola (KO). Do you agree with Buffett’s analysis?

Prof. Joel Greenblatt’s book, The Little Book that Beats the Market, is (simply) an application of Buffett’s thoughts on economic Goodwill.

Helpful hint: Take a subject like share repurchases or divdend policy and try to find many different sources on the subject. Learn the subject to death. Master how, when or if a company should act in returning capital to shareholders.

See’s Candies Case Study:Sees Candies 2012


A Parable on Valuation: The Old Man and the Tree or a Parable of Valuation

Inflation:Inflation Swindles the Equity Investor and Buffett inflation file

EBITDA: Placing EBITDA into Perspective and TEV to EBITDA Research

Joel Greenblatt: Little Book That Still Beats the Market, The – Joel Greenblatt

Secrets of (view): http://youtu.be/3PShSES5nBc   25 minutes

Corporate Finance

Share Repurchases: Corporate Structure and Stock Repurchases and Assessing Buybacks from all Angles_Mauboussin

Dividends: Dividend Policy, Strategy and Analysis

You will beat Wall Street easily if you apply the above lessons. The hard work is in mastering the material.   Stay the course.

Affirming the Case for Quality (GMO White Paper); Share Repurchases

Quality Companies are often under appreciated by investors

I hope my wretched scribbling will help your investing journey. We want to learn from the lessons all around us. Study failure so as not to pay a high tuition for knowledge and study success so as to develop your own investment method.  Yes, it is fun to point out the disasters like Sunpeak Ventures (SNPK)—nothing but a “pump and dump”—yet focusing on great companies is more valuable, yet less popular than you might think. Your time is best spent understanding and investing in great companies—either hidden champions that are emerging or dominate hidden niches or great franchises with dominant moats.  This is why I try to write often about competitive advantage, franchises, and quality businesses.

Here is a GMO White Paper (June 2012) that affirms the case for quality. Companies with high and stable profits (KO, PEP, EXPD, M, and GOOG) tend to have lower bankruptcy risk, lower leverage and generally higher returns compared to risk of loss. Please read carefully: GMO_WP_-_2012_06_-_Profits_for_the_Long_Run_-_Affirming_Quality

Ben Graham argued that real risk was “the danger of a loss of quality and earning power through economic changes or deterioration in management.”

The returns earned by stock investors are entirely a function of the underlying corporate profits of the stocks held in a portfolio.  Note the focus that Buffett has placed on knowing where a business will be in five to ten years—a chewing gum company versus a high tech start-up). As he says, “We favor businesses and industries unlikely to experience major change…operations that….are virtually certain to possess enormous competitive strength ten or twenty years from now. A fast changing industry environment may offer the chance for huge wins, but it precludes the certainty we seek.”

Oligopolies tend not to revert—note the persistence of corporate profitability of companies that operate within corporate barriers.

Look at the stability of companies like Tootsie Roll and WD-40. Tootsie Roll (Tootsie Roll_VL) has slowly declining returns on capital but it is shrinking its capital structure. Note the low price variability. Everyone knows about WD-40 (WDFC) (lubricant oil) and Tootsie Roll (candy)—the products will not disappear in the customers’ minds nor become obsolete.

Note on page 4 of the GMO White Paper: While it has become conventional wisdom that the market misprices price-based risk factors like low beta outperforms high beta, we find that it also misprices fundamental risk. . Companies that report negative net income underperform the market by a whopping 8% per annum. The market overpays for risk at the corporate level in much the same way that it overvalues the risk of high beta stocks. Conversely investors had historically underpaid for the low risk attributes of high quality companies.  To us (GMO), investing in Quality companies simply exploits the long-term opportunity offered by the predictability of profits in conjunction with the market’s lack of interest in the anomaly. Their predictability higher profits are not quite high enough to command the attention of a market in thrall to the possibility of the next big jackpot. 

Lesson: focus on quality companies to find better returns for lower risk.

Radio Show on Quality Stocks

For beginners and (those who are willing to sit through or skip the commercials), there are discussions about high clean-surplus ROE companies here: http://www.buffettandbeyond.com/radio.html

More on corporate buybacks

Assessing Buybacks from all Angles_Mauboussin


Tomorow I will post the prize to all those who lent their wisdom to: http://wp.me/p1PgpH-Qw

An Insider’s View of Capital Allocation (Corporate Finance and Valuation Case Studies)

This is includes an important reading found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/75125923/Capital-Structure-and-Stock-Repurchases-Value-Vault.  Also in the Value Vault.

The 58-page document will start with buy backs from a corporate finance (an insider’s) perspective as described by Mr. Louis Lowenstein, the CEO of Supermarkets General and a Law Professor at Columbia University. Then you will read what the masters, Buffett and Graham had to say on the subject. If, when and how a company buys back its shares says a lot about the business and capital allocation skills of management as the Case Studies of Teledyne Corporation and others will show. You will learn the importance of context and circumstance as the principles of good and bad capital allocation are applied. I hope you find the lessons instructive.

From the introduction

Whether the business is a franchise or not, management has two major jobs: operate the business efficiently which is critical in a non-franchise business since earning the company’s cost of capital is the best outcome and allocating capital effectively. Growth is only profitable in a franchise business, therefore capital allocation is critical for shareholder returns.  If a franchise’s core business is unable to grow, often free cash-flow can’t be redeployed at the same high returns. Capital might need to be returned to shareholders but how much and in what way?

Thinking about what management will do with excess cash is important for your valuation work. Should the excess cash on the balance sheet be discounted heavily because management tends to make poor choices (Greenblatt) or will management buy-in shares, causing the per share value to rise (Duff & Phelps valuation case study)?  You will be given a corporate insider view on these issues.

Share repurchase programs should be an integral part of a company’s capital allocation process, one in which management weighs reinvestment opportunities not only against the alternative of cash dividends but also both of those alternatives against a third alternative, the buyback of common stock. Management has several capital allocation alternatives:

Business Needs: Working capital, Capital expenditures, and Mergers & acquisitions

Return Capital to Shareholders: Dividends, Share buybacks, and Debt repayment

You will gain many insights from your reading.

Supplementary materials from a reader:


Dividends from an investor’s perspective: