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Barel Karsan
Barel Karsan

Book Review: List of Cannibals

June 06, 2014

Charlie Munger strongly recommends that investors "look at the cannibals", defined as companies that gobble up their own shares. I have found it difficult to find an up-to-date list of cannibals, so I decided to create one. I've picked it over (though of course, it is always changing) and so I've now decided to share it publicly going forward, here.

Some basic elements of the list are available for free, but it does take some time to maintain the list, so there's a small fee for the advanced features, which include the Top 100 and a list that is current as of today (as opposed to the Top 10 as of one month ago, which is what's available free).

I think screening for cannibals is an extremely useful tool. For one thing, companies on this list are clearly focused on returning money to shareholders, which is always a good trait to look for. They are also likely to have cheap shares relative to either earnings or assets, because it would otherwise be difficult to buy a big chunk of your market cap without this characteristic. (E.g. Even if Amazon or Netflix devoted all of their income and then some to buying back shares, they could not make this list!)

Finally, I would argue that companies that buy back lots of their own shares are potentially better at capital allocation than the average company. They are saving shareholders some taxes by not dividending the money, they are potentially taking advantage of a market mispricing, and they are not blowing their excess cash on new ventures with uncertain returns, even if that shrinks the size of the company (which goes against The Institutional Imperative).

Readers who have been with this site for a while will recognize old favourite Jewett-Cameron near the top of the list, as it is a company that has embodied all of the above features.

Enjoy! And please let me know if you find any glaring errors or have any suggestions for improvement. If there's good uptake for the paid feature, I'll continue to add features and develop it further.

About the author:

Barel Karsan
Charlie Tian, Ph.D. - Founder of GuruFocus. You can now order his book Invest Like a Guru on Amazon.

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