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Geoff Gannon September 25, 2011

Valuing Financial Companies: ROIC, ROE, or ROA?

Someone who reads my blog sent me this email:

All else being equal, which measure is preferred for financial firms such as banks: ROIC or ROE?  I am using ROIC for non-financial firms but I didn’t know if it gave a useful reading for financial firms or not.




ROIC is not useful.

For non-financial companies:

I know you like ROIC. But I think it’s too clever by half.

I use the pre-tax return on tangible invested assets.

In other words, I look at what a company earns and divide those earnings by the assets on its balance sheet excluding cash and intangibles.

For financial companies:

Normally you use return on assets. Then you multiply ROA by an appropriate leverage ratio.

Say Wells Fargo (WFC) has a long-term average ROA of 1.3%. If in the future you expect banks to be levered 10 to 1, you would multiply 1.3% times 10 to get a 13% ROE. If you expect normal leverage to be 12 to 1 – you’d multiply 1.3% times 12 to get a normal ROE of 15.6%.

And so on.

For a good discussion of financial companies, read Variant Perceptions.…

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Geoff Gannon September 13, 2011

Ted Weschler’s Portfolio

Yesterday, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) announced it hired Ted Weschler as an investment manager. Weschler will manage between $1 billion and $3 billion of Berkshire’s money. He starts next year.

Weschler currently runs a hedge fund.

Here is his latest portfolio:

DirecTV (DTV): 25.98%

W.R. Grace (GRA): 25.11%

DaVita (DVA): 19.04%

Liberty Media (LCAPA): 11.83%

Valassis Communications (VCI): 7.74%

Cogent Communications (CCOI): 3.48%

Cincinnati Bell (CBB): 3.36%

WSFS Financial (WSFS): 3.04%

Fibertower (FTWR): 0.42%

These are long positions only. Weschler shorts stocks and uses leverage. For details, see Carol Loomis’s story.

Weschler is an investor after my own heart. His top 5 positions make up 90% of his portfolio. And he spent time at two of the companies he owns: W.R. Grace and WSFS Financial.

The W.R. Grace connection is well documented.

Weschler became a director of WSFS in 1992. He’s 50 now, so he must have become a director of WSFS at 31 or 32. By age 34, Weschler is shown as a director of 6 different companies. And described as “the general partner for several investment partnerships.” 

Weschler worked for Quad-C which controlled Thrift Investors LP which in turn owned 24.81% of WSFS Financial back in 1996 (the earliest date when WSFS filed with EDGAR). So, in reality, Weschler was WSFS’s biggest shareholder as far back as the 1990s.

This supports the general impression that Weschler – like Buffett – buys what he knows. He holds few stocks. And he has relationships with some of these companies going back many, many years.

Talk to Geoff About Ted Weschler

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