Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Berkowitz Sticks with Leucadia

In an article titled "Being Like Buffett May Mean Parting Ways With Him," Morningstar presents why Bruce Berkowitz decided to sell Fairholme's position in Berkshire Hathaway--and what he has decided to keep, or buy.

It's not often you give one of your idols his walking papers. But that's what happened in late 2008 when Bruce Berkowitz of Fairholme (FAIRX) eliminated his stake--once as high as 20% of assets--in Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) ...

..Berkowitz doesn't think Buffett is washed up. Far from it. But he's taking the Oracle of Omaha at his word. Buffett himself says Berkshire's size makes it unlikely the firm will return better than a percentage point or so more than the S&P 500 going forward. Berkowitz thinks Fairholme can do better.

That's not hubris. Berkowitz says he's not smarter than Buffett--just smaller. And that gives him a wider range of opportunities in a target-rich environment than Berkshire has due to its girth. The same goes for most Buffett-inspired funds...
I especially enjoyed this bit, on why Berkowitz decided to keep Leucadia shares, and then add some of the company's within LUK's portfolio to his own:

A secret of Buffett's success has been to buy firms outright and then leave proven managers in place and alone. Likewise, a big part of Fairholme's success has come from identifying and investing in top capital allocators while remaining a silent partner.

The fund has long held Leucadia National (LUK), a holding company run by Ian Cumming and Joe Steinberg. Leucadia has compounded capital at a high rate over the years. It has interests ranging from copper mines to wineries to an early-stage biotech firm, among others. Berkowitz and his team know Leucadia's underlying holdings well and think they're cheap. But Leucadia has ownership restrictions that prevent anyone from owning more than 5% of its shares, and Fairholme is at that level. So, Berkowitz has invested directly in a couple of what he thinks are the more attractive firms from the Leucadia stable.

The fund now has a small stake in Fortescue Metals, an Australian iron ore firm whose shares have tumbled alongside ore prices. But Fortescue is a low-cost producer and has a geographic advantage over many rivals due to its proximity to China, a top ore consumer. And AmeriCredit is another Leucadia holding that overlaps with Fairholme...
For more names that Berkowitz is investing in via Fairholme, including some detail on Americredit--a position shared with Leucadia--click here.

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