The greatest players in any profession often make their job look effortless. Whether it was Michael Jordan on the court, George Carlin weaving political satire, or Warren Buffett's prophetic visions of the economy, the genius of what they do comes in the mastery of fundamentals.
As the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A), Buffett's investing strategy is well known. Buy understandable businesses with solid value and assured growth at great prices. Then let the top notch managers continue on their way. Over the last 20 years this strategy has led to a 1000% increase in Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A)'s stock price.
Warren has a soft spot for food companies. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) has interests in Nestle SA Reg Shs. Ser. B Spons (PINK:NSRGY), See's Candies, Dairy Queen, Mars, and most recently acquired shares of H.J. Heinz Company (NYSE:HNZ). These are just a few of the yummy names held but I noticed one exceptional company is missing.
Who: A Sweet Treat
The J.M. Smucker Company (NYSE:SJM) is a packaged food company based primarily in the USA and Canada. Its products include coffee, peanut butter, fruit spreads, shortening, oils, baking mixes, and many other goods.
Management: The Smucker Brothers
The stock is up over 400% since the Smucker brothers, Richard and Timothy, took the helm as co-CEO's back in 2001. It has also been a consistent dividend payer (and raiser) since 1960.
The long term strategy is outlined by Chief Operating Officer, Vince Byrd. “Combining strong brand building, innovation, and productivity initiatives with an ability to quickly adapt to market conditions has created a platform for growth.”
This continues a decade long tradition of quality management coupled with long term focus. A strategy that has led The J.M. Smucker Company (NYSE:SJM) to recently acquire names like Rowland Coffee and Sara Lee.
Value: A gem in a potentially overvalued sector
Recently I published an article entitled "It Might Be Time to Take Profits in Blue Chip Dividend Payers." This focused on consumer staple stocks and why I believe companies like Campbell Soup Company (NYSE:CPB), General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS), and Hershey Co (NYSE:HSY) are overvalued. But, while doing research for that article I found The J.M. Smucker Company (NYSE:SJM) to have very attractive valuations that haven't been distorted by the move from bonds to blue chip dividend payers.
A few brief highlights are a Price Earnings (PE) ratio of 20 and a very attractive forward PE of 16.45. With the industry average PE of 23.40 this stock is both undervalued in current terms and will experience appreciation over the next year as stock price aligns to earnings in order to maintain an approximate 20 PE. The price to book is 2.11 vs an industry average of 4.48. Finally, the long term debt/equity is an ultra low 0.38 vs an industry average of 1.03.
Recent Results: A tasty quarter
The most recent quarterly results for The J.M. Smucker Company (NYSE:SJM) showed impressive gains in margins, gross profits, and increasing sales in key brands such as Dunkin Brands Group Inc (NASDAQ:DNKN) packaged coffee, which was up 29%. Operating income increased 5% year over year. Net income increased 13% over that same time. If you included the company's share repurchase program the diluted net income increased a whopping 17%. Margins benefited from a drop in commodity prices and administrative expenses, even with the increase in marketing to promote brand awareness.