Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Investing in a Bubble Mania Stock Market Trending Towards Financial Crisis 2.0 CRASH! - 9th Sep 21
2.Tech Stocks Bubble Valuations 2000 vs 2021 - 25th Sep 21
3.Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
4.Stock Market FOMO Hits September Brick Wall - Evergrande China's Lehman's Moment - 22nd Sep 21
5.Crypto Bubble BURSTS! BTC, ETH, XRP CRASH! NiceHash Seizes Funds on Account Halting ALL Withdrawals! - 19th May 21
6.How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
7.AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
8.Why Silver Price Could Crash by 20%! - 5th Oct 21
9.Powell: Inflation Might Not Be Transitory, After All - 3rd Oct 21
10.Global Stock Markets Topped 60 Days Before the US Stocks Peaked - 23rd Sep 21
Last 7 days
AI Tech Stocks State Going into the CRASH and Capitalising on the Metaverse - 25th Jan 22
Stock Market Relief Rally, Maybe? - 25th Jan 22
Why Gold’s Latest Rally Is Nothing to Get Excited About - 25th Jan 22
Gold Slides and Rebounds in 2022 - 25th Jan 22
Gold; a stellar picture - 25th Jan 22
CATHY WOOD ARK GARBAGE ARK Funds Heading for 90% STOCK CRASH! - 22nd Jan 22
Gold Is the Belle of the Ball. Will Its Dance Turn Bearish? - 22nd Jan 22
Best Neighborhoods to Buy Real Estate in San Diego - 22nd Jan 22
Stock Market January PANIC AI Tech Stocks Buying Opp - Trend Forecast 2022 - 21st Jan 21
How to Get Rich in the MetaVerse - 20th Jan 21
Should you Buy Payment Disruptor Stocks in 2022? - 20th Jan 21
2022 the Year of Smart devices, Electric Vehicles, and AI Startups - 20th Jan 21
Oil Markets More Animated by Geopolitics, Supply, and Demand - 20th Jan 21
WARNING - AI STOCK MARKET CRASH / BEAR SWITCH TRIGGERED! - 19th Jan 22
Fake It Till You Make It: Will Silver’s Motto Work on Gold? - 19th Jan 22
Crude Oil Smashing Stocks - 19th Jan 22
US Stagflation: The Global Risk of 2022 - 19th Jan 22
Stock Market Trend Forecast Early 2022 - Tech Growth Value Stocks Rotation - 18th Jan 22
Stock Market Sentiment Speaks: Are We Setting Up For A 'Mini-Crash'? - 18th Jan 22
Mobile Sports Betting is on a rise: Here’s why - 18th Jan 22
Exponential AI Stocks Mega-trend - 17th Jan 22
THE NEXT BITCOIN - 17th Jan 22
Gold Price Predictions for 2022 - 17th Jan 22
How Do Debt Relief Services Work To Reduce The Amount You Owe? - 17th Jan 22
RIVIAN IPO Illustrates We are in the Mother of all Stock Market Bubbles - 16th Jan 22
All Market Eyes on Copper - 16th Jan 22
The US Dollar Had a Slip-Up, but Gold Turned a Blind Eye to It - 16th Jan 22
A Stock Market Top for the Ages - 16th Jan 22
FREETRADE - Stock Investing Platform, the Good, Bad and Ugly Review, Free Shares, Cancelled Orders - 15th Jan 22
WD 14tb My Book External Drive Unboxing, Testing and Benchmark Performance Amazon Buy Review - 15th Jan 22
Toyland Ferris Wheel Birthday Fun at Gulliver's Rother Valley UK Theme Park 2022 - 15th Jan 22
What You Should Know About a TailoredPay High Risk Merchant Account - 15th Jan 22
Best Metaverse Tech Stocks Investing for 2022 and Beyond - 14th Jan 22
Gold Price Lagging Inflation - 14th Jan 22
Get Your Startup Idea Up And Running With These 7 Tips - 14th Jan 22
What Happens When Your Flight Gets Cancelled in the UK? - 14th Jan 22

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

Warren Buffett Bargain Hunting in Germany

Stock-Markets / European Stock Markets May 21, 2008 - 07:30 AM GMT

By: Martin_Hutchinson

Stock-Markets

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleInvestors have been watching Berkshire Hathaway Inc. ( BRK.A , BRK.B ) Chairman Warren Buffett's moves for years to see which investments are going to take off next.

Back in October, the Oracle of Omaha's trip to South Korea encouraged our own bullishness on that country's stock market.


Back in October, the Oracle of Omaha's trip to South Korea encouraged our own bullishness on that country's stock market.

And now Buffett has decided to have a look at Germany.

On a recent trip to Europe, Buffett made stops in Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Italy. But his first priority was to meet with leaders of the German mittelstand - the family-owned, medium-sized companies that are the backbone of the German economy.

"We would like more family owners of German businesses who, when they feel some need to monetize their business, think of Berkshire Hathaway," Buffett said to the Financial Times .

Buying into privately held companies - usually those whose ownership remains in the hands of the founding family - is an investment play Buffett has run time and again - and virtually always successfully. Back in 2006, he made what then was his largest investment ever outside the U.S. market, when he spent $4 billion for an 80% stake of an Israeli metalworking firm that was family operated . At the time, Israel was out of fashion with U.S. investors, though Buffett's headline-making deal changed those attitudes rather quickly.

Like Israel was then, and like Japan is now, Germany is currently unfashionable with U.S. analysts. As is also true of Japan, it seems to come as a surprise every time Germany comes out with a positive gross domestic product (GDP) number. Both countries had horrible periods in the 1990s, but analysts who think Germany is doomed to slow growth forever haven't been paying attention.

The Seeds of a German Economic Rebound

Germany's problems of that period were largely due to the 1990 German reunification, which German Chancellor Helmut Kohl foolishly carried out by equalizing the West and East German currencies and making East German labor hopelessly uncompetitive in the process. The net result was 15 years of huge subsidies from West to East and a series of real estate disasters as Western construction companies overbuilt in the East.

Since about 2005, however, the costs of reunification have begun to decline - they were always likely to be a finite problem, as the Eastern education system was reformed and produced more productive workers - and the German growth rate has begun to increase.

Indeed, over the near-decade since the introduction of the euro, German labor competitiveness has increased by about 20% against its fellow European Union members, a very good performance. German companies have a healthy position in Eastern Europe, too, where economic growth has been rapid and wage rates remain far lower than in the West.

Germany has a substantial balance of payments surplus - about 5.5% of GDP in 2007, slightly larger than the United States' deficit - and a budget deficit of only 0.4% of GDP. The Economist estimates that Germany will grow at 1.7% in 2008 and 1.6% in 2009 - not stellar, but still faster than the United States, which will be lucky to eek out 1% GDP growth this year (and much faster per capita if you discount for the 1% annual U.S. population growth).

Unlike some of its EU neighbors, German industry has suffered only moderately because of the euro's strength. It helps that many German companies have substantial manufacturing operations in central Europe, which has become a haven of German-style (and mostly German-speaking) labor practices and engineering skill, but where labor costs remain low. Add in German companies' reputations for superb organization and quality control, and you have an industrial machine that is fairly immune to exchange rate fluctuations and even to cheaper emerging market competition.

Even inflation at 2.4% is not much of a problem in Germany, and the strong euro should hold German inflation down by suppressing rises in dollar-denominated energy and commodity prices, while not doing much damage to Germany's healthy balance of payments surplus.

Profit Plays to Call Now

So, what to buy? Well, be careful with the banks. There are too many banks in Germany, most of them propped up by their local governments, and the banking system's lack of good ideas for making money has recently been shown by two banks, IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG and Sachsen LB, getting in serious trouble for overexposure to U.S. subprime mortgages. However, most German banks do have an advantage over U.S. banks in their limited exposure to non-mortgage U.S. debt.

Nevertheless, if you want a German financial services play, I would avoid even the mighty Deutsche Bank AG ( DB ) and go for the banking/insurance conglomerate Allianz AG (ADR: AZ ). While Allianz does own Dresdner Bank, which has had its own problems and write-offs, it is also Germany's largest property, casualty and health insurance company, making it one of the world's leading insurers. And Allianz is trading at a slightly lower price/earnings (P/E) ratio than Deutsche at about 7, has a nice dividend yield of 4% and is selling at less than 1.2 times book value, a key metric for financial services companies, which tend to sell at 2 or 3 times book.

You should also look at Germany's great engineering companies. The largest, Siemens AG (ADR: SI ), has recovered from its losses of a couple of years ago and is now selling at a P/E ratio of about 8, although its dividend yield is still only 1.6%. Still, Siemens' powerful worldwide position should allow it to continue its recovery, and there is a good chance of dividend increases - a return to Germany's traditional conservative 50% dividend payout rate would cause its dividend to treble.

A third possibility is Fresenius Medical Care AG & Co. (ADR: FMS ), the world's largest manufacturer of kidney-dialysis machines, again a global player. This firm has a somewhat higher Price/Earnings ratio, currently about 19 on projected 2008 earnings, but its technological capability and strong market position give it attractive growth potential.

Finally, in the tech sector you might look at the business-software provider, SAP AG (ADR: SAP ), whose shares carry a P/E of about 18 on estimated 2008 earnings, though they yield only 1%. SAP is the leading manufacturer and installer of so-called " enterprise resource planning ," or ERP, software, a business whose usefulness to companies has greatly increased as its products have matured and the firm's earlier installation problems have largely been overcome. 

Unlike Buffett, most individual U.S. investors don't have the opportunity to buy the German mittelstand directly, but even large German companies can offer attractive values.

News and Related Story Links:

By Martin Hutchinson
Contributing Editor

Money Morning/The Money Map Report

©2008 Monument Street Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Protected by copyright laws of the United States and international treaties. Any reproduction, copying, or redistribution (electronic or otherwise, including on the world wide web), of content from this website, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of Monument Street Publishing. 105 West Monument Street, Baltimore MD 21201, Email: customerservice@moneymorning.com

Disclaimer: Nothing published by Money Morning should be considered personalized investment advice. Although our employees may answer your general customer service questions, they are not licensed under securities laws to address your particular investment situation. No communication by our employees to you should be deemed as personalized investment advice. We expressly forbid our writers from having a financial interest in any security recommended to our readers. All of our employees and agents must wait 24 hours after on-line publication, or 72 hours after the mailing of printed-only publication prior to following an initial recommendation. Any investments recommended by Money Morning should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor and only after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Martin Hutchinson Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in