As the world's third-richest person and most celebrated investor, Warren Buffett attracts a lot of attention. Thousands try to glean what they can from his thinking processes and track his investments.
We can't know for sure whether Buffett is about to buy Metalico (ASE: MEA) -- he hasn't specifically mentioned anything about it to me -- but we can discover whether it's the sort of stock that might interest him. Answering that question could also reveal whether it's a stock that should interest us.
Consistent earnings power.
Good returns on equity with limited or no debt.
Management in place.
Simple, non-techno-mumbo-jumbo businesses.
Does Metalico meet Buffett's standards?
1. Earnings power
Buffett is famous for betting on a sure thing. For that reason, he likes to see companies with demonstrated earnings stability.
Let's examine Metalico's earnings and free cash flow history.
Metalico has had some difficulty maintaining consistent over the past five years, though they seem to be improving over the past couple of years.
2. Return on equity and debt
Return on equity is a great metric for measuring both management's effectiveness and the strength of a company's competitive advantage or disadvantage -- a classic Buffett consideration. When considering return on equity, it's important to make sure a company doesn't have an enormous debt burden, because that will skew your calculations and make the company look much more efficient than it actually is.
Since competitive strength is a comparison between peers, and various industries have different levels of profitability and require different levels of debt, it helps to use an industry context.
Return on Equity (LTM)
Return on Equity (5-Year Average)
Schnitzer Steel (NAS: SCHN)
Sims Metal Management (NYS: SMS)
Steel Dynamics (NAS: STLD)
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
Metalico generates a moderately low return on equity while employing a moderate amount of debt.
CEO Bill Lovette has been at the job since January. Before that, he has at Case Foods and Tyson for 27 years.
Chicken isn't particularly susceptible to wholesale technological disruption.
The Foolish conclusion
Whether or not Buffett would buy shares of Metalico, we've learned that while the company operates in a straightforward industry, it doesn't exhibit some of the other characteristics of a quintessential Buffett investment: consistent earnings, high returns on equity with limited debt, and tenured management.
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At the time thisarticle was published Ilan Moscovitzdoesn't own shares of any company mentioned.You can follow him on Twitter@TMFDada. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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