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Leucadia National Corp. (LUK): Is This a Baby Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A) or Not?

Leucadia National Corp. (NYSE:LUK)’s many disparate interests bear mentioning: Oregon Liquified Natural gas, Leucadia Energy-Gasification, Garcadia (car dealerships), Conwed Plastics, Sangart (biotech), Idaho Timber, Keen Energy Services, Premier Entertainment (which owns the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, MS), Fortescue Metals Group, Inmet Mining, and National Beef.

Leucadia National Corp. (NYSE:LUK) also owns Jefferies Group, the investment bank and securities firm, as well as some scattered real estate holdings and earlier this year bought Hendricks & Co., an investment bank specializing in multi-family real estate.

Several of Leucadia’s investments were considered contrarian, especially timber, copper, and mortgage financing, especially mortgage financing in 2009, but these were great illustrations of buying when others are fearful, the famed adage of Leucadia’s Berkadia partner Warren Buffett.

While Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) is involved primarily with insurance, it also owns retail, utilities, rails, and finance. Since Berkshire owns so many companies I am only providing a link to its holdings. It doesn’t mention Oriental Trading Co. or Heinz which closed recently.

Leucadia National Corp. (NYSE:LUK) runs a similar opportunistic business model. Cumming wrote in the 2011 shareholder letter,” We employ leverage in a careful way and do not intend to fall into the traps of employing too much leverage or borrowing short term and investing long. We will leave that silliness to the hedge funds.”

In the 2008 letter Cumming wrote, “While always maintaining at least $500 million in cash or liquid assets… we will continue to look for companies to buy, but only consider companies that earn money, have a bright future and are durable!”

Here’s what Warren wrote in the 2011 shareholder letter,” We customarily keep at least $20 billion on hand so that we can both withstand unprecedented insurance losses …and quickly seize acquisition or investment opportunities.” This has worked well for Buffett as he’s been able to hone in on big deals like Heinz or the $34 billion purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC (NYSE:BNI) in 2009.

Their competition

Leucadia and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A)’s competition is The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE:BX) . Blackstone is an alternative asset manager and operates in five segments: real estate, credit, hedge fund solutions, private equity, and financial advisory. Recent deals include Motel 6, Vivint (number 2 in US home security and home automation), the purchase of Capital Trust’s asset management platform, and several new funds.

The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE:BX)’s market cap is $11.4 billion. Although larger than Leucadia National Corp. (NYSE:LUK) it has a much higher trailing P/E of 34.55 but offers a yield of 4.5%. Blackstone trades at twice book value but its PEG is only .56 compared to Berkshire’s PEG of 3.44.

Both Buffett and Cumming believe in keeping a low profile; Buffett lives in the same Omaha home he bought decades ago. This is in sharp contrast to The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE:BX) CEO Steven Schwarzman’s style who before Blackstone went public and the financial crisis lived a Gilded Age lifestyle.

Blackstone has brought many companies back from the dead and then taken them public, making pots of money. Pinnacle Foods which debuted a few months ago and chemical company Celanese which The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE:BX) bought in 2004 at a discount and took public in 2005 at a profit are only two examples.

Blackstone’s assets under management ballooned by almost a third to $205 billion from 2011 and analysts expect a 30% rise in EPS from $1.63 in FY 2012 to $2.13 for FY2013.

Buy baby Berkshire, Blackstone or just Berkshire?

I’ll never tell you not to buy Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) but if you want a low P/E, diversified holding company like Berkshire earlier in its trajectory, Leucadia National Corp. (NYSE:LUK)’s your baby. The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE:BX)’s P/E is just too high and its business model is less like Berkshire if that’s what you’re aiming for. Or just buy Berkshire but wait for a pullback.

AnnaLisa Kraft has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A). The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A).

The article Is This a Baby Berkshire or Not? originally appeared on

AnnaLisa is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network — entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

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