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  • Kovitz Investment Management Spring 2014 Letter

    <p style=" margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;"> Kovitz Investment Management - Spring 2014 Letter


  • U.S. Bancorp: Don’t Forget About This Fair Valued Bank

    If you were to survey the field to name major banks, we’re guessing that U.S. Bancorp (USB) wouldn’t top too many lists. Instead, the likes of J.P. Morgan (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), Bank of America (BAC) or Citigroup (C) would probably come to mind. Yet with $361 billion in assets, the Minneapolis based U.S. Bank holding company comes in as the 5th largest commercial bank in the United States. It operates over 3,000 banking offices with nearly 5,000 ATMs in 25 states – providing banking, brokerage, insurance, investment and payment services to consumers, businesses and institutions.

    If you were to ask Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio) what his favorite bank was, Wells Fargo – making up over $20 billion of Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.A) investment portfolio – would likely be named. Yet what’s not readily apparent is that his second favorite bank might very well be USB. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway currently owns 96 million shares or just over 5% of the entire business – a number that’s been climbing since 2006.  

  • Brian Rogers' T. Rowe Price Equity Income Fund First Quarter 2014 Commentary

    Most U.S. equities advanced during the first quarter in a volatile session characterized by a sell-off in emerging market currencies, increased geopolitical tensions, and the transition of leadership at the Federal Reserve. Economic data were mixed, influenced by unusually cold weather across the country. Investors grew concerned about potential deflation in Europe and a larger-than-expected slowdown in the Chinese economy. Sector performance was uneven, as some areas that provided leadership in 2013 pulled back while others rose. The utilities sector was strongest, with investors seeking income-producing stocks, while health care, information technology, and financials also did well. Consumer discretionary, energy, and industrials and business services shares were laggards.

    The Equity Income Fund returned 1.59% in the quarter compared with 1.81% for the S&P 500 Index and 2.04% for the Lipper Equity Income Funds Index. For the 12 months ended March 31, 2014, the fund returned 18.55% versus 21.86% for the S&P 500 Index and 18.76% for the Lipper Equity Income Funds Index. The fund's average annual total returns were 18.55%, 21.26%, and 7.52% for the 1-, 5-, and10-year periods, respectively, as of March 31, 2014. The fund's expense ratio was 0.68% as of its fiscal year ended December 31, 2012.


  • Housing Expert Robert Shiller - Signs of Weakening in Housing

  • Hayman's Kyle Bass Discusses Japanese Sell-Off, GM

  • Oakmark's Bill Nygren Discusses Financials, Favorite Stocks

  • A Successful Stock Gurus Have Ignored

    The natural upside to any midstream operation is the strong cash flow. Resource which if well used can help finance an important capital investment. Most importantly, the assets built can then be sold to oil & gas producers in order to reward those who trusted management with initial investments. That is it. There is not much of a secret behind midstream oil & gas companies. Hence, from this analyst’s point of view, the key element to success is quality leadership. Such characteristic allows the business model to identify market trends, and transform synergies into real growth. Magellan Midstream (MMP) may just be the case that exemplifies the argument. However, gurus have not been too enthusiastic about the stock and trading volumes remain low. Let us see why, and if you should take the post.


  • Model Restructuring Divides Gurus, What Should You Do?

    When looking for a prospect stock, investors tend to ignore businesses going through a strategy restructuring. The prejudice is always the same: strategy reform equals underperforming business. That may be the case. However, restructuring a business strategy can offer a great upside. It is just a matter of looking deeper into the context in which the company is immersed. In other words, a business reshaping can also be prompted by necessity. Specifically, the wish to absorb new and additional market synergies. For example, through an acquisition strategy firms tend to forget what gave them success in the first place. Then, dropping assets and spinning-off some segments into businesses of their own, is just a way to return to the basics while making the model profitable again. This may just be the case that Encana (ECA) represents today.


  • Neutral on Infosys After Results

    India’s second largest software services company, Infosys (INFY) declared its fourth quarter results today. The company’s fourth quarter and annual results were fairly good. However, there are some concerns along with positives. This article discusses the positives and negatives, which boils down to a neutral view on Infosys in the near-term. Therefore, over the next three months (until first quarter results), the stock movement is likely to be largely range bound.

    The Positive Results and Guidance


  • Great Investor Glenn Greenberg Discusses His Investment Philosophy

    I recently watched a video lecture at Columbia from 2010 with Glenn Greenberg of Brave Warrior Advisors, and thought I’d share some thoughts.

    Greenberg is one of the best investors of the past three decades. His track record over that period is excellent. From 1984 to 2009, he and his partner Jon Shapiro ran a firm called Chieftain Capital, where they produced annual returns in the mid-20s until 2008, when Chieftain lost 25%. The next year, Greenberg and his partner split the firm up into two smaller firms, with Shapiro retaining the Cheiftain name and Greenberg now running his own firm called Brave Warrior.


  • Morning Coffee: Widely Held Guru Stocks Near Historical Low P/S

    This morning we are going to take a look at stocks that are widely held by the gurus and trading near historical low price-to-sales (P/S) ratios.

    Qualcomm (QCOM) is trading at a low P/S ratio of 5.43, near its 10-year low of 4.48. The company designs, manufactures, and markets digital communications products and services based on code division multiple access (CDMA), orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), and other technologies. It is held by 31 gurus we follow.


  • Book Review: Who Says Elephants Can't Dance

    I finally got around to reading the Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio) recommended Who Says Elephants Can't Dance. I should have read it a long time ago; it is easily the best book by a former CEO that I've ever read.

    Lou Gerstner was brought in to lead IBM in the early 1990s as it was losing money hand over fist. The company had become bloated following decades of success with its mainframe computer. But now, a slew of component makers (as opposed to the fully integrated sytems from IBM) were disrupting the mainframe with cheaper (albeit less reliable) alternatives. Not only did Gerstner have to stop the bleeding (mainframe sales were down big as desktop sales were taking off) ASAP, but he also had to change the company's long-term strategy so that it was no longer reliant on a product destined for decline.

    There were a lot of reasons I enjoyed this book. First, the level of detail Gerstner goes into when discussing strategic direction is awesome. Gerstner discusses the stack, the fully integrated portfolio IBM had provided its customers, including hardware, software, services and their subcomponents. Competitors were specializing within individual subcomponents, resulting in more efficient operations, but more headaches for customers who had to put the components together. Gerstner had to figure out where IBM strategically fit on that stack, and he takes you through the thought process that caused him to focus the company on middleware and services, while shutting down or selling many of the other areas which IBM used to provide.


  • Three Reasons I’m Not Worried About Healthcare Costs In Early Retirement

    Ever heard of “golden handcuffs”?

    Usually, this is a system of compensation and/or benefits that is designed to keep an employee from leaving a company. Benefits like matching retirement account contributions, insurance, and stock options are popular handcuffs that can keep an otherwise disgruntled or burned out worker from leaving for potentially greener pastures. And by greener pastures, I’m talking about early retirement.


  • Comment for Buhler Industries (TSX:BUI) Stock Analysis -

    Key Assumptions:
    WACC 7.2%
    20% Probability of catalyst  

  • Third Point (Dan Loeb) Investor Presentation - Sothebys

  • Micro Cap Dividend Stocks

    Using the dividend stock screener for micro cap stocks with an added filter for predictability of more than 3.5 stars, we have two stocks from the screener.

    Hickory Tech Corp (HTCO) is trading at $12.15 (refer to chart below). Some dividend metrics are shown below:


  • Philips - Lighting the World with LED

    One name that comes to mind when thinking about lighting solutions is Philips (PHG). The company, with a broad range of services under its belt, is also a leader in providing lighting solutions. With the paradigm shift in lighting solutions over the years and users embracing LED lights for it innumerable benefits, Phillips is exploring LED lighting solutions as it was an established brand that provided turnkey light solutions for home and industrial segments, not forgetting its solutions for outdoor lighting.

    Financial analysts believe that the LED penetration rate will reach 70% by 2020, but looking at the exponential growth and demand for LED lights, this can grow much faster. Various research estimates foresee the growth of LED chips to be at a rate of 1.9% and possibly reaching $12.74 billion year-end 2014, and the Global LED lighting market size reaching $25.82 billion in 2014 with a market penetration of 23.4%. This market size is certainly benefiting a market leader like Phillips which has been a pioneer in providing lighting solutions globally.


  • This Market Is Going to Drive Ford’s Future Growth

    The second largest U.S. automaker Ford is set to make the most of the world’s largest car market China. Although a late entrant in the mainland, success looks boundless for the Westerner. The other two foreign auto giants that enjoy dominance in the sizzling market are General Motors (GM) and Volkswagen (VLKAY). Cars are selling like hot cakes in China, like never before. And automakers are fighting for increased market share.

    By the Number


  • Mental Model Application - Reward and Punishment Super-Response Tendency (Incentives)

    “I think I’ve been in the top 5 percent of my age cohort almost all my adult life in understanding the power of incentives and all my life I have always underestimated that power.”

    Charlie Munger (Trades, Portfolio)


  • High Time for Apple to Choose Between Margin and Market Share

    Latest rumors about Cupertino-based Apple (AAPL) hint that the tech giant is looking at a price hike of $100 per device for the next iPhone. While this news might stir up things for the telecom carriers, it’s no less a stressful point for the company as well. But is Apple realizing that?

    Apple’s Joy And Carrier’s Sorrow


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