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Barclays: Buy Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett

“Berkshire shares offer an attractive entry point,” Barclays Jay Gelb said on Monday.

That’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B), the $357 billion conglomerate run by Warren Buffett. Initially a textile company turned insurance firm, Berkshire now owns an array of businesses in utilities, railroads, manufacturing, retail, and homebuilding. The company is also famous for its massive portfolio of equity investments hand-picked by Buffett, aka the Oracle of Omaha.

Gelb reiterated his “overweight” rating on the stock, which is essentially a bet on the US economy.

“Berkshire has high gearing to a recovering economy and equity markets through its operating businesses and $157 billion investment portfolio (excluding cash),” Gelb added. “Berkshire is well-positioned to ultimately benefit from improving earnings in the non- insurance businesses as the economy recovers along with a robust balance sheet. However, in 2016 the Burlington Northern railway’s earnings are expected to decline, similar to the rest of the industry.”

Non-insurance businesses made up 77% of operating earnings in 2015, up from just 43% in 2006. Gelb sees growth across businesses, while also highlighting the gains coming from completed and prospective acquisitions.

“Our latest 2016/17 operating EPS estimates per B share equivalent of $7.09/$7.55 could have upside if Berkshire completes additional acquisitions that are typically immediately accretive to earnings,” Gelb said. “This is because the acquisitions generate a positive earnings yield compared to holding the funds in cash.”

With short-term interest rates near 0%, holding cash effectively offers no return.

“Berkshire still has significant cash available for acquisitions even after recent deals including Precision Castparts, which is its largest deal ever,” Gelb continued. “We still expect only a modest earnings contribution from Kraft Heinz through 2016 due to ongoing significant restructuring charges.”

On Friday, Berkshire Hathaway reported that Q2 operating earnings jumped 25% year-over-year.

Gelb has “overweight” ratings on Berkshire’s A-shares and B-shares, with price targets of $249,000 and $166, respectively.

Also on Monday, UBS’s Brian Meredith reiterated his “Buy” rating on the shares. He reduced estimates for 2016 and 2017 earnings per share to $11,234 and $12,489, respectively, from $11,536 and $12,936 due to weakness in railroads, manufacturing, services, and retailing. However, he raised his price target on A-shares to $245,500 from $244,500.

On Monday, A-shares were trading near $217,000. B-shares were near $144.

Sam Ro is managing editor at Yahoo Finance.
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